Initiative and Referendum History Series: Ohio celebrates 100 years of I&R process
By: Joshua Williams and Al Ortiz
Contact: Brittany Clingen
What started it all? In 1910 Ohio voters approved a call for a constitutional convention. That lead to a 42 question ballot on September 3, 1912. Thirty-four of the state constitutional amendments proposed that day, including the right to initiative and referendum, would be approved.
Below is a brief rundown of the history of the state's initiative and referendum process, initiative statistics, notable initiatives that have been on the ballot and a look at the most recent initiatives that voters have voted and will vote on.
State initiative and referendum process
Citizens of Ohio may initiate statutes through the process of indirect initiative and constitutional amendments through the process of direct initiative. Once sufficient signatures have been collected, statutory initiatives are first presented to the Ohio General Assembly. If approved by the legislature unamended, the proposed statute becomes law. If not, petitioners must collect an additional round of signatures within ninety days in order to place the statute on the ballot. Proposed amendments proceed directly to a vote of the people.
There are a number of restrictions on Ohio initiative and referendum process, including a single subject rule and signature requirements. In 2012 initiated constitutional amendment required 385,247 signatures, initiated state statute required 115,574 signatures, and veto referendum required 231,149 signatures.
These totals are based on the requirements that for constitutional amendments, petitioners must submit signatures equal to 10% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election, 3% must be collected for statutes and 6% for veto referendums.
Based on Ballotpedia statistics, from 1913 to 2012:
- 249 measures have been placed on the Ohio ballot.
- 91 (35.55%) of all the measures were initiated by Ohio citizens.
- 32 (35.16%) of those measures were approved.
- 153 (61.44%) of all the measures were referred by the legislature.
- 100 (65.34%) of those measures were approved.
- 5 (2.01%) of all the measures were automatically referred to the ballot to ask whether a constitutional convention should be held.
- None of those measures were approved.
- The first direct initiative was a proposed amendment in 1913 to reduce the size of the Ohio Legislature. It lost by nearly two-to-one.
- The first initiative to be approved by voters was in 1914. It was related to home rule on the subject of liquor, and was approved with only a one percent margin. Three other initiatives that year were defeated, including one to extend suffrage to women.
- The first two veto referendums were place on the ballot in 1915, and were regarding redistricting of congressional districts and Alcohol. Both measures were overturned by voters.
- In 1918, the voter's declared the right to approve or reject federal constitutional issues via an initiative.
- In 1933, voters granted counties the right to home rule via an initiative.
- Between 1950 and 1975, 13 initiatives appeared on the ballots, but none were approved.
- In 1983, citizens tried to raise the legal drinking age from 19 to 21 (it was 18 until 1982), but it was voted down. Four years later Ohio would change the age under federal pressure.
- In 1992 three citizen initiatives resulted in term limits on a variety of elected Officials, including the member of the state legislature and governor. Ohio congressional delegates would also receive term limits, but those would be nullified in the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton.
Most recent initiatives
The initiative and referendum process has been active in the past two elections, with three citizen-initiated ballot measures being placed before voters. All three measures garnered plenty of controversy in the state.
Issue 2, the most controversial of all 2011 ballot measures in terms of campaign contributions and media attention, was a veto referendum that repealed legislation that limited collective bargaining for public employees in the state. The formal title of the proposal that this measure would repeal was Senate Bill 5. Most notably, SB 5 prevented unions from charging "fair share" dues to employees who chose to opt out. The process to place the referendum on the ballot for voters to decide was completed by supporters, as signatures were certified for the Ohio Secretary of State. The group behind the referendum effort was the political action committee We Are Ohio. A "yes" vote would have kept the law, while a "no" vote would have repealed the law. On November 8, 2011 voters voted "no" resulting in the repeal of Senate Bill 5, therefore Issue 2 was rejected.
Issue 3 called for exempting residents of Ohio from national health care mandates which would stop any state law from forcing persons, employers or health care providers from participating in a health care system. The measure was sponsored by The Ohio Project. The measure was in response to President Barack Obama's signing of a national health care mandate law in 2010. That measure was approved.
The measure slated for the 2012 ballot deals with the issue of redistricting. The measure, a veto referendum, would create a 12-person citizen commission to draw legislative and congressional district maps. According to supporters of the measure, the commission would create districts that would reflect the state's geographic, racial, ethnic and political diversity. The initiative would also bar lobbyists and elected officials from joining the commission.
Currently, the Ohio Legislature redraws district maps every ten years due to population shifts.
- List of Ohio ballot measures
- Laws governing the initiative process in Ohio
- Ohio Constitution
- Initiative and referendum
- Ballot initiative
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