Former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft comments on a hot constitutional reform plan

Former Ohio Republican Gov. Bob Taft on Monday urged lawmakers to propose a measure that would make it harder to change the state’s constitution or revive the August special election to do so — citing the combination “particularly bad public order”.

Taft, the scion of one of Ohio’s most famous political families, sent a letter of protest to members of the General Assembly as a faction of GOP lawmakers and a coalition of powerful lobbyists scramble to push an amendment guaranteeing Ohioans access to abortion the organizers hope to come to the election in November.

The Ohio Senate last week passed a resolution that would raise the threshold for citizens to pass future amendments to the Ohio Constitution from 50% plus one to 60%, but the fate of the measure in the politically fragmented Ohio House is yet to be determined not decided.

Ohio Republicans are pushing to limit changes to the state constitution as abortion rights remain an issue

A plan being drafted by Republican Senate President Matt Huffman and endorsed by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose calls for a special election to be held in August to put the 60 percent question to voters.

The move comes just months after lawmakers passed legislation eliminating such elections in most cases. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who signed the bill into law in January, said Monday he would sign a reversal bill if both houses approved it.

Taft, who has served as both governor and secretary of state for Ohio, said he knew from conducting elections in Ohio that voters were few in the summer polls.

Bob Taft

Former Ohio Governor Bob Taft has opposed a plan by other Republicans to raise the public voting threshold to 60% in order to pass new amendments to the Buckeye state constitution. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“For more than 100 years, amendments to the Ohio Constitution have been passed by a simple majority,” he wrote. “The decision to change such an entrenched practice should not be made in an election with low turnout.” He said such a question belongs on a general ballot when there is a maximum turnout.

But Taft said he also opposes raising the threshold for passing future constitutional amendments at all.

Taft noted that two of his own signature initiatives as governor — the Clean Ohio Fund and the Third Frontier Project — would not have been approved under the higher threshold. The former passed with 57.4% of the vote, the latter – after an initial defeat – with 54.1%, he wrote.


“Both measures have proven effective and have made important contributions to our state’s economy and quality of life,” Taft wrote.

Taft, governor from 1999 to 2007, also warned that Ohio cannot raise its debt limit above $750,000 without a popular vote. Raising the threshold to 60% could mean that raising the debt ceiling to fund highway or school construction, environmental protection or job-creation programs “might become impossible in years to come,” he wrote. A similar argument was put forward in January by a coalition of voting rights, faith, union and other organizations opposed to the measure.

But Taft’s last-minute resistance could do little to stop the 60% measure from possibly moving forward as soon as this week. Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said the required 60 representatives had pledged to vote yes, and that list had been shared with Stephens.


Gonidakis told lawmakers their votes for the resolution, as well as the law calling for a special election in August, will count against their “pro-life” records when scorecards are issued at election time, he said. The Buckeye Firearms Association, which supports raising the threshold to 60% to discourage Ohioans from passing future gun control changes, will use the same approach for its gun rights scorecards, Gonidakis said.

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