A Conversation with Anne Applebaum and Katie Couric: The State of American Democracy


Thursday, April 25, 2024, 12:00 pm EDT


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Bucking democracy in Ohio

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Welcome to the new Ohio, where the state legislature has become an increasingly frightening and powerful laboratory for autocracy. 
To start, on January 6th, 2023 (of all the dates!) Ohio’s governor signed one of the most restrictive voter-ID laws in the country. The Ohio law includes mandating the use of photo IDs, passports, or driver’s licenses for voting; limiting each county to a single ballot drop box; and requiring citizenship status on IDs. County-issued veterans’ identification and college IDs cannot be used for voting. Out-of-state college students will not be able to take advantage of the “free” Ohio state ID’s without possible serious consequences and university student ID’s are not acceptable. To say it is confusing, is an understatement.
These draconian voter ID laws will be in effect in Ohio’s upcoming May 2nd primary election as well as for a special election taking place in August. You heard that right—the summertime. For Ohio county boards, this special election is a costly, low-turnout, and unnecessary election to administer. That much was obvious last year when the gerrymandering debacle forced Ohio to hold a special primary for state legislative districts in August. The turnout, predictably, was very low.
As an example, Lorain County, OH had a voter turnout of under 9%, while statewide it was just over 8%. To put that in perspective, in the regular May primary, both Lorain County and the state had a turnout of about 21.1%. And, in the November general election, the turnout was around 51.9% in Lorain County and 52.3% statewide.
So then, why the urgency to pass a law allowing for an August special election?It has everything to do with making changes to their State Constitution. Ohio Republicans are hoping to get it passed and signed into law in time for Ohioans to vote this summer on a proposed amendment that would raise the threshold for passing other constitutional amendments to 60 percent. As it stands now, the threshold is 50 percent plus one vote.
What constitutional amendments are they hoping for?
If voters raise the threshold in August, 60 percent support would be needed to pass a proposed amendment protecting abortion access that likely will appear on the November ballot. The Republicans are hoping that a highly motivated force of anti-abortion voters will show up at the polls in a low-turnout election and make it easier in November to block the proposed amendment protecting abortion.
Citizen-led Ballot Initiatives
Last year during the lame duck session, Statehouse Republicans introduced a constitutional amendment that aimed to effectively eliminate citizen-led ballot initiatives in the state, but it failed to pass. However, the amendment has been reintroduced this year. If passed, the amendment would increase the threshold for support for a citizen-passed ballot initiative to 60%, which is higher than the current simple majority, plus one, required.
What can we do?
BigTentUSA is proud to partner with VoteRiders which is a non-partisan organization that helps provide voter ID information and assistance to disenfranchised voters, in particular. You can request addresses through us to send voter ID information letters directly to voters.