Washington, D.C. — Voters across several states in recent years have used ballot measures to expand Medicaid, rein in predatory debt collection, raise the minimum wage, defend abortion rights and more. In response, extremist lawmakers are angling to dismantle the ballot measure process or at least make it virtually impossible for voters to pass laws.
Last month, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) announced that a top legislative priority in 2023 will be to enact a supermajority threshold for constitutional amendments on the ballot, requiring 60% approval from voters instead of a simple majority to pass. The proposal was moved forward in committee during the legislature’s lame duck session, and it is expected to reappear in January when the legislature returns for its new session. Legislators in Missouri are already filing similar proposals to make the ballot measure process harder.
“Ballot measures are already difficult enough for voters to use — only 23 states plus Washington D.C. currently have a process for citizen-initiated ballot measures, and many of those states employ draconian requirements to suppress voters’ power even further,” said Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project.
“Extremist state legislators are threatened by a voting populace that disagrees with them on the issues, so now they’re trying to change the rules of the game. It’s totally unsurprising that Ohio legislators are now using the same playbook as their counterparts in North and South Dakota, Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and more who want to dismantle direct democracy and entrench minority rule. We’re tracking these attacks on voting rights closely and are prepared to fight back.”
In response to attacks on direct democracy, the Fairness Project has been fighting to defend the ballot measure process and ensure citizens can use this critical tool for years to come. Since last year, the Fairness Project has already organized $5.6 million to fight back through its Ballot Measure Rescue Campaign. Read below about the Fairness Project’s victories in 2022 to defend direct democracy:
South Dakotans for Fair Elections
Knowing that Medicaid expansion would be on the ballot for voters in November 2022, extremist South Dakota legislators wanted to do everything they could to block it from passing — even changing the rules of the game. They proposed Amendment C, which would have required state constitutional amendments to be approved by a supermajority of voters, a transparent attempt to entrench minority rule and block the will of the people. The Fairness Project, working with local partners, led the campaign to defeat Amendment C in June and stop state legislators’ egregious power grab — clearing the way forward for a Medicaid expansion victory in November.
Protect AR Constitution
Arkansas legislators tried the same thing as those in South Dakota, putting Issue 2 before voters in November in an attempt to require their own supermajority threshold. Special interests spent millions to try to dismantle direct democracy, but the Fairness Project once again led a coalition to defeat Issue 2 and ensure that ballot measures continue to be a tool for Arkansas citizens to make their voices heard.
The Guardian: How Republicans are trying to block voters from having a say on abortion
NPR: Ballot measures on weed and abortion won in 2022. Now they’re fueling a backlash
Fast Company: Ballot measures helped get progressive policies passed this year—but they could come under attack
Politico: Republicans look to restrict ballot measures following a string of progressive wins