The Representative's Corner
Recently, I voted with all of my Democratic colleagues, along with five Republican colleagues in the Ohio House of Representatives against Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2). Although we lost the vote and the resolution passed, our bipartisan group agreed with four former Ohio Governors (Republicans John Kasich and Bob Taft and Democrats Ted Strickland and Dick Celeste), five former Ohio Attorney Generals (Republicans Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery and Democrats Richard Cordray, Lee Fisher, and Nancy Rogers), and a multitude of state organizations from throughout the political spectrum to say no to allowing minority rule in Ohio.
Currently, the Ohio constitution requires a vote of 50%-plus one (a simple majority) of voters to approve an amendment to that document. This has been the law in Ohio since the people voted back in 1912 to approve various measures to give more of a voice to the people, due to the fact that the state government was not properly addressing their concerns.
Amendments to the state constitution can be placed on the ballot in two ways under current law. First, the Ohio General Assembly can vote to do so. The other method is for residents of Ohio to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures with a certain percentage required from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
SJR 2 places on the August 8 ballot an amendment to our state constitution that, if passed, would require a certain percentage of signatures gathered from all 88 counties in order to place future amendments on the ballot. Further, future amendments would require a 60% super majority vote of the people to be approved.
The reason for my no vote has multiple dimensions, some of which I will outline. First, it wastes $20,000,000 (yes, twenty million dollars!) of your taxpayer funds on an unnecessary August special election. As a fiscal conservative, I view this as squandering the hard-earned dollars of single moms (like my mom was), the General Motors worker, the nurse at UH, and all other Ohio taxpayers. Keep in mind that August special elections were virtually outlawed just back in December as a waste of taxpayer dollars and the fact that few people vote in them by many of the same folks who voted to place this issue on the ballot this August.
Next, it gives a minority of Ohioans the power to stop a change to our state constitution that most Ohioans support. What other election do we vote in that requires more than a simple majority? Not only that, but this very important issue will be decided in an August election where voter turnout is historically extremely low. Relatedly, the new signature requirement means that a single county could prevent an issue from ever going to the ballot.
Further, although it is rarely used, allowing the people to vote to change our state constitution has resulted in positive changes in our state. For instance, the people voted to eliminate taxes on food, adopt a minimum wage, create legislative term limits, and approve the job creating Third Frontier Program and environmentally friendly Clean Ohio Fund, among other good measures.
In closing, I urge you to vote “NO” on August 8 to protect the concept of “one person, one vote” in Ohio. It is truly an honor to be your voice at the Ohio Statehouse.
Sean Patrick Brennan
Sean Patrick Brennan