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Ohio Farm Bureau recently announced support for Issue 1, a ballot measure being put before Ohio voters Aug. 8. To help our members answer questions about what this initiative means to agriculture, we have prepared a Q&A below.
What does Issue 1 propose?
The ballot measure will be part of a special election Aug. 8. If passed, the resolution will raise the threshold for approving constitutional amendments to 60% and also will modify the requirements for the petition process for proposals to change the constitution, requiring no less than 5% of the electors represented from every county of the state to sign a petition. Currently, signatures must be gathered for only 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Additionally, the initiative would eliminate the 10-day period that petitioners are granted to replace any invalid signatures. Notably, Issue 1 only applies to constitutional changes, and the initiated petition process to amend Ohio law remains unchanged.
Why is Ohio Farm Bureau supportive of Issue 1?
Our policy, driven by our grassroots process, has long been in favor of strengthening the process to put constitutional amendments on the ballot. Our members created policies through our grassroots process which strongly supports these proposed changes to how easily the constitution can be altered. Making the process of amending the Ohio Constitution more fair and thoughtful is something our members think is important, and this resolution will accomplish just that.
Agriculture is often the target of ballot initiatives, seeking to dictate how work is to be done throughout our industry. But as our members know, agricultural technologies evolve and farmers are constantly adopting new best practices. Having those practices dictated by a constitutional amendment limits the ability of those in the industry to efficiently pivot and adapt without revisiting the constitution.
As a Farm Bureau member, why should you care?
The passage of this issue would protect Ohio agriculture and the state’s food security by having a more thoughtful approach to amending our constitution. In recent years efforts have been made by outside special interest groups to push anti-agricultural initiatives to make it more difficult to produce food in the U.S. and incentivize imports from other countries. In recent years the U.S. has seen historic agricultural trade surpluses shift to trade deficits, which directly impacts Ohio Farm Bureau members and family farms across the country.
We have already seen groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) target Ohio in part because our process and threshold to amend our constitution is relatively low. Just recently, Farm Bureau was part of a U.S. Supreme Court case fighting Prop 12, a California ballot initiative that dictates how livestock raised in Ohio should be produced if potentially sold into that state. Unfortunately, Prop 12 was upheld and is now the standard. Now that the courts have upheld Prop 12, special interest groups have the incentive to start to work state by state to create new anti-agriculture and anti-business regulations.
Why does Ohio Farm Bureau support raising the threshold for approving constitutional amendments to 60%?
Ohio is one of only 19 states in the country that allow for these direct citizen initiatives, and of those, many states have various requirements beyond a simple majority for a constitutional amendment to pass and take effect. For constitutional amendments proposed by the Ohio General Assembly through a joint resolution, a three-fifths vote in favor of the joint resolution is required for its passage. This change would make constitutional amendments in Ohio meet the same threshold to pass.
A constitutional amendment is one of the ways citizens can make or ask for changes to laws in Ohio; these changes will only apply to proposed constitutional amendments.
Why does Ohio Farm Bureau support modifying the requirements for the petition process and signature collection?
The current process to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot requires organizers to collect signatures in just half of Ohio’s counties. This means rural communities are often ignored and their support largely isn’t needed. Amending the constitution should require broad support from Ohioans in all types of communities. Under our current process, the interests of large metropolitan areas outweigh those of small and rural communities. Collecting signatures in all counties in Ohio could create a more engaged voter base, and create needed conversations around the issues at hand.
Ohio voters, no matter which county they are from, have different ideas when they head to the polls, so leaving half of the state’s counties out of the petition process for any statewide constitutional amendment change doesn’t seem right. “This ballot measure is not specific to any particular issue. It is about getting all corners of the state involved when a constitutional amendment that would impact all Ohioans is at stake. For too long, many of Ohio’s rural communities have been overlooked and have not had a voice on what amendments to the constitution may be considered.
What are Ohio Farm Bureau’s concerns with the current process of amending the state’s constitution?
Simply put, we support a more thoughtful process. Our members believe the constitution should be preserved as the foundation of self-governance and defining the rights of all our citizens. It should not be an avenue to push the agendas of special interests. The U.S. Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 of 50 States).
Ohio only requires a simple majority to pass an amendment to our constitution and only needs 5% of the electors from half the counties to sign a petition to qualify for the ballot. Our grassroots-driven policy is supportive of a higher threshold to amend our constitution.
It is important to note that the proposal under Issue 1 only applies to constitutional changes here in Ohio, and the initiated petition process to amend Ohio law remains unchanged.
The variation from state to state on ballot initiatives is a patchwork of rules, and Ohio has the opportunity to set a standard that promotes equal representation among our voters and an Election Day threshold that gives clear and convincing results to make changes to our constitution. As one of only 19 states in the country that allow for voter-led initiatives, Ohio Farm Bureau and other business groups and industries are working on behalf of our members to make sure this process is working to effectively support Ohioans, giving different segments of voters the opportunity to engage in the process. This resolution could create a more dynamic grassroots process for voter-led initiatives, a better understanding of the issues voters are asked to support, and more confidence in the results of Election Day.
We will continue to update our members on opportunities to engage on Issue 1 as they become available.
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