Ohio voters show they’re not part of the Baa Baa Black Sheep brigade

Most people aren't violently pro or anti-abortion, but somewhere in the middle

Photo by Jonathan Mabey on Unsplash

If anything shows that American voters really are for liberty and have little ambition to trot sheeplike behind their leaders, it’s Ohio’s Aug 8 special election.

Voters in the conservative-leaning state decisively rejected a Republican-backed change to their constitution, which would have made it tougher to amend. Since 1912, Ohio has allowed a simple majority of voters to approve constitutional amendments through ballot questions. But the state’s Republican lawmakers proposed a higher threshold for future constitutional amendments, raising it from a simple majority to a 60 per cent supermajority.

Their motives were hidden in plain sight.

In November, a constitutional amendment on abortion will be put to the vote. By raising the threshold for an amendment, the Republicans hoped to make it harder to protect the right to abortion.

As analysts pointed out the choice of a date in the lazy hazy days of August for this special election showed the depths of political cynicism. Republicans hoped the timing of the vote in August would give them an advantage in a lower turnout election, August being the holiday season and a time when the electorate might reasonably be expected to focus on matters other than politics.

As it turned out, voters turned out. In force.  Some 2.8 million votes were cast in Ohio on Aug 8,  compared to 1.7 million in last year’s primaries.

They rejected it all 57 per cent to 43 per cent. In so doing, they prevented their lawmakers’ attempts to de-fang citizen-led initiatives. In a sense, Ohio’s voters stopped the attempt to turn them into woolly sheep… here a baa, there a baa, everywhere a baa, baa.

That said, it’s important to be clear what really happened in Ohio and what it means.

  • It’s not as if the state is overwhelmingly in favour of abortion. But it’s not overwhelmingly in favour either of banning all right to abortion.
  • It’s not as if the state has suddenly swerved towards more pro-abortion rights Democrats. But it’s not totally in agreement with hardline Republican anti-abortion measures either.

But Ohio stood up for its right to have its say, on its own terms. In so doing, Ohio became the the fourth red state, along with Kansas, Kentucky and Montana, to have voted on the abortion-rights side of a referendum since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. That’s not to say Ohio is pro-abortion. But it respects someone’s right to choose, a perfectly reasonable position that many right-thinking people would endorse. More to the point, it respects the right to speak one’s mind.

No woolly headed sheep there.