“Ohio Republicans try to change rules to defeat abortion rights amendment”

Dan Balz WaPo column:

or 111 years, Ohio voters have lived with a set of rules for amending their state constitution through citizen initiative. The requirements have not changed and the threshold for enactment has always been 50 percent plus one. Today, Republicans in the legislature want to change that. The reason is abortion, and the maneuvering underway there adds to a bigger story about the Republican Party.

The story in Ohio is somewhat convoluted, as legislative and parliamentary processes often are. But the motive is clear: Facing the possibility that abortion rights could be enshrined into the state constitution by a vote of the people later this year, Republicans want to change the rules by making it tougher to pass such amendments by requiring them to receive 60 percent of the vote.

The effort is as transparent as it is cynical. Some proponents of the rule change will not specify that abortion politics is the reason they are rushing to do this. They offer alternative explanations for their thinking, such as protecting the integrity of the state constitution from nefarious special interests and keeping the constitution from being mucked up with all manner of minor or narrow amendments. Proponents of the abortion rights amendment, however, say those explanations are hollow and hypocritical.

This is part of a broader pattern that spreads beyond Ohio and the issue of abortion. It speaks to the state of contemporary politics and the mind-set of many Republican elected officials, who are using their power in state legislatures to undo rules that they see as unfavorable to them. Early and mail-in voting regulations are prime examples of such action. As seems to be the case with abortion in Ohio, Republican lawmakers are trying to change rules when public opinion appears to be against them.

After the 2020 elections, Republicans decried changes made during the pandemic that expanded early and mail-in voting, which has tended to favor Democrats. In some states, they moved to shorten the period for early voting and tighten rules for mail ballots. When Democrats thumped Republicans in early voting again in 2022, some Republican leaders began to acknowledge that they had a problem of their own and that they must learn how to compete more effectively against Democrats in turning out early voters.

Where Democrats appear to have an advantage in popular-vote elections, many Republicans still favor steps to lessen those advantages. Recently, Cleta Mitchell, a conservative legal strategist, told a gathering of donors that Republicans should look for ways to tighten the rules on campus voting, where the party is getting swamped both by lopsided margins for Democrats and higher turnout, as well as mail ballots.

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