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OP-ED: Disrespectful, dishonest Brian Stewart owes apology to me and every other Ohioan

3 min read

May 10, 2023

This op-ed by Executive Director Emily Cole appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on May 10, 2023 — click to read on

Ohio State Rep. Brian Stewart (R- Ashville) is one of the leading bullies behind House Joint Resolution 1, which would undermine the sacred principle of "one person, one vote."

In short, House Joint Resolution 1 would require a 60% yes vote to pass a constitutional amendment, raising the threshold from 50% plus 1, as has been Ohio law since 1912. It is unnecessary, undemocratic, unfair, and unpopular.

He claims he needs to dilute our vote to three-fifths, or 60%, in order to protect our state Constitution from “outside special interests."

And yet, raising the threshold for constitutional amendments would virtually eliminate any ability by grassroots organizations powered by us as Ohioans to put forth amendments we want, with or without the approval of politicians.

I served as the campaign manager for a failed attempt at a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment in 2021. Anyone who believes citizen-initiated constitutional amendments are easy likely has never been part of one.

Language has to be so precise to pass the vetting process of the attorney general’s office that it frequently takes multiple rounds of initial signature-gathering. And then, once approved by the ballot board, a near Herculean effort is undertaken to gather the requisite signatures to make it to the statewide ballot in a general election.

Raising the threshold essentially ensures even more money will be spent on these efforts.

Each voter is equated with a dollar amount, or a cost per signature, as well as a later cost per vote. If the threshold increases, the number of votes needed increases, driving up the cost.

House Joint Resolution 1 virtually guarantees any groups looking to amend our constitution must seek outside funding from national partners. This very clearly does the opposite of protecting our Constitution from “outside special interests” – rather, it makes it dependent upon them.

But when I presented this before Stewart in committee on May, I was not telling him anything he didn’t already know.

There is already an outside billionaire, who does not live in Ohio, funding the extremist effort to amend our Constitution through House Joint Resoluton 1.

The power of a constitutional amendment is among the top opportunities we as

Ohioans have for things like criminal legal system reform. It’s why we continue, even when our efforts fail, to attempt to put statewide constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Our families will continue to stand up, speak out, and organize to defeat any effort that attempts to silence the majority to benefit the minority.

We do this work from the heart, with a scrappy and dogged determination to build an Ohio that is fair for us all and free from a gerrymandered supermajority rigging each and every aspect of our political power spectrum to rule.

I wish I could say we do this work with the backing of a billionaire, the way Stewart can.

He’ll have to let us know what that’s like.

Stewart has shown time and again not only does he not respect us as Ohioans.

He owes us an apology for his attempt to undermine the power of our vote.

He owes us an apology for his attempt to disenfranchise us at the ballot box.

And he owes us an apology for forgetting that he works for us. Not the other way around.

3 min read

May 10, 2023

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