DemDaily: Ohio Voters Reject Referendum in Victory for Abortion Rights

August 9, 2023

Voters in Ohio yesterday resoundingly rejected a special election referendum aimed at thwarting passage of an abortion-rights initiative that will be on the ballot in November.

In one of the most consequential initiatives of 2023, Ohio Issue 1 was defeated 57% to 43%, shutting down a Republican-backed measure which would have raised the requirement to amend the Ohio Constitution from a simple majority of 50%+1 to a 60% supermajority -- making it more difficult to pass future amendments.

The increasingly conservative Midwest state is the latest battleground in the fight for reproductive rights since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

In April 2019, Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed the Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act, which bans abortion after any embryonic cardiac activity can be detected, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The law also imposes felony criminal liability on anyone who performs, aids or abets an abortion.

A preliminary injunction blocking the law from implementation was lifted after the Supreme Court reversed federal abortion protections under Roe, but it was stayed again by a common pleas court in October 2022 while litigation continues.

In the interim, abortion rights groups launched a successful citizen petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2023 which would guarantee reproductive freedoms in Ohio -- prompting the Republican legislature to initiate Ohio 1 as a preemptive attack.

Special interest groups from both sides spent more than $26 million total to argue their case to the voters.

The unexpectedly decisive victory in a state that Donald Trump won by eight points in 2020 underscores the significance of abortion access to voters, with Republicans on the defense going into the 2024 elections.

“Ohio voters rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers and special interests to change the state’s constitutional amendment process. This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won.” -- President Joe Biden

Elsewhere, in the Mississippi gubernatorial primary incumbent GOP Governor Tate Reeves dispatched with two minor primary opponents, taking 74.6% of the vote to physician John Witcher's 17.8% and military veteran David Hardigree's 7.6%.

Four-term Public Commissioner and former Nettleton Mayor Brandon Presley, a second cousin of rock legend Elvis Presley, was unchallenged in the Democratic primary.

Presley, a self-described populist who has represented a third of Mississippi on the state’s Public Services Commission since 2008, offers Democrats their first hope in over two decades of retaking the Governor's mansion.

A June Morning Consult poll showed just under half of Mississippi voters (48%) approve of Reeves’ job performance, while 42% disapprove, and an April 24–27 Impact Research survey of likely voters showed Tate leading Presley 47% to 44% (± 4.0%).

Mississippi is one of three states with governor's races up in 2023, along with Kentucky and Louisiana.
See: DemDaily: The 2023 Election Calendar

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Dayton Daily News, Politico, AP, Clarion-Ledger

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