By David Pepper
Question: do you trust a legislature that claims to be “protecting” a Constitution, when it’s in power via districts that violate that Constitution? That is, when those same legislative leaders themselves violated that Constitution to lock in their own power in the first place?
That’s exactly what the lawless Ohio legislature is up to at this moment. Seated in districts they drew that violate the Ohio Constitution…passing laws that represent extreme views (and usually outside interests) and not mainstream Ohio views…this faction is now trying to strip power from the people by raising the threshold to amend the Ohio Constitution to 60%. And they’re trying to rush it through in August to get ahead of an effort by advocates and doctors to hold a referendum protecting abortion access this November (something a majority of Ohioans support, hence the desperate legislative effort to raise the threshold to 60% in order to pass).
These lawless legislators have the audacity to claim that their goal is to protect Ohio’s Constitution from outside interests, when in fact, what it would do is curb Ohioans’ ability to have their majority will reflected in Ohio law (often against the toxic agenda of this legislature and the outside and extreme interests they represent). Long-term, it would further cement into place minority rule in Ohio—legislators in rigged districts passing deeply unpopular bills via a simple, gerrymandered majority but imposing a supermajority requirement on the people to reverse their toxic policies. A total nightmare.
(As I said above, I recently re-read Animal Farm by George Orwell, only to discover that the human version of it is playing out in the state I call home).
Beyond Ohio, this disturbing and cynical attack on democracy is a red flag of how much things crumble once anti-democracy tactics get normalized as the culture of a place. And it’s a perfect example of how one attack on democracy and the rule of law builds into another, then another—how the sequence of lawlessness creates a downward spiral of extremism & minority rule.
If they do move forward on this power grab, we MUST come together to oppose and then defeat it…soundly.
The good news is that a number of conservative groups and (yesterday) former GOP Governors Kasich and Taft have come out against this power grab and against HJR 1 (the resolution now in the Ohio House that would amend the Constitution with that 60% threshold). In Ohio, this type of bipartisan opposition is key.
But we have far more to do to crush it.
Early framing is critical. A group I work with called Forward Justice has already begun communicating with voters across Ohio through targeted digital ads to make sure they know what this power grab is all about and how it would impact everyday Ohioans. Thousands have already viewed these ads, with sky-high click-through rates and 70% watching the entire ad once they open it.
You can help Forward Justice spread the word further by giving here.
Also, please keep making calls to legislators who will be voting on HJR1, likely this week. You can look up the numbers of the legislators to make calls to here.
Be sure you call Speaker Jason Stephens (614-466-1366) and Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz (614-466-8258). Tell them you oppose HJR 1.
Also, feel free to say the same to some of these reps: Abrams, Pavliga, LaRe, Manning, Ghanbari, Cross, Jones, Dobos, Cutrona, Robb Blasdel, Richardson, Hillyer, Oeslager, Edwards & Patton.
Some legislators, including the Speaker himself, have sent signals they aren’t comfortable with what’s happening, but they’re facing enormous pressure from the far right to advance it anyway. So we have to make sure they hear even more voices from the pro-democracy side.
Again, there may be a vote on HJR1 as soon as Wednesday. Be sure they hear from you first!
There’s also a hearing on Thursday for the companion bill they need to pass to push this change via a costly ($20M+) special August election, which currently is not allowed under Ohio law. (They recently got rid of August elections, proclaiming them to be a waste of money and undemocratic….but now they’re reviving them for their own power grab; another plot twist right out of “Animal Farm”).
As Rep. Elliot Forhan is pleading, weigh in there too—Government Oversight Committee—if you can. Call GOP committee members listed here.
Whatever you do, now is the time to make some noise!
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Bottom line: stopping attacks like this, as soon as they arise, is essential….and not just for Ohio.
If something like this works here, believe me, they’ll take it elsewhere fast. That’s how these Laboratories of Autocracy work: always learning, always repeating their successes.
So…Kill it here. Kill it everywhere.