Business leader: An end to majority rule in Ohio? Issue 1 an unprecedented affront to democracy

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 08: Voters sign in to cast their ballots at the Ohio Union at The Ohio State University on November 8, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. After months of candidates campaigning, Americans are voting in the midterm elections to decide close races across the nation. (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775897883 ORIG FILE ID: 1244615189

Richard A. Stoff, a longtime resident of Columbus, is senior advisor to the Leadership Now Project.

Recently, I joined with more than 40 distinguished Ohio business and civic leaders in an open letter condemning Issue 1, the constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot on August 8 that would require a 60 percent vote for passage of future amendments instead of the simple 50-plus one majority that has been in place for more a century in our state.

More: How Ohio Issue 1 could make it harder to put amendments on the ballot

We are deeply troubled by this unprecedented affront to our democracy and will be voting "no" on Issue 1 in August, and encouraging everyone we know to vote "no."

In a way that no responsible business would make a decision, Issue 1 was rushed through the legislature and placed on the ballot this August in a special election for special interests.

Richard A. Stoff, a longtime resident of Columbus, is Senior Advisor to the Leadership Now Project.
Richard A. Stoff, a longtime resident of Columbus, is Senior Advisor to the Leadership Now Project.

Issue 1 would permanently end majority rule in Ohio and give 40 percent of the voters the ability to block the will of the people. The proposal restricts our freedom and takes away our rights, undermining the sacred principle of one person one vote.

Keeping a simple majority as it’s been for more than 110 years is just common sense. Raising the threshold to 60 percent is a draconian measure that will make it nearly impossible for citizens in Ohio to ever amend our Ohio Constitution again.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, called Issue 1 “misleading,” and “deceptive.”

Four former governors, Republicans John Kasich and Bob Taft, and Democrats Ted Strickland and Dick Celeste, along with five former Ohio attorneys general, of both parties, oppose Issue 1.

My Ohio business leader colleagues and I are especially troubled that the Ohio Legislature purposely rushed through Issue 1 in an August special election when the consequences are so high, and voter turnout will be low.

Lawmakers are trying to sneak a higher threshold of 60 percent into our Ohio Constitution on a deeply partisan issue. We are troubled by the shameful waste of $20 million tax dollars and growing for the special election in August.

For these reasons, our open letter says: “There is no state emergency, no fiscal crisis, no health or safety emergency. Our fellow citizens of Ohio, endowed with common sense, should see this “special” election for what it is: an attempt to limit the number of Ohioans who will participate in their constitutional right to vote. The call for this special August ballot issue is a disturbing action which will only serve to add to the cynicism already felt by many Americans.”

Issue 1 is destructive because it comes at a time when there is a genuine feeling of optimism in Ohio regarding our future as a competitive state capable of attracting businesses to invest here, create jobs, and grow our economy.

My fellow business leaders and I acknowledge this: “Why does this matter? Take for example, Republican Governor Bob Taft’s Third Frontier Project, which has been vital to Ohio’s technology-based economic development, spurring Intel, Honda, Google and Amazon to grow jobs in the state. The Third Frontier Project was premised on passage of a constitutional amendment. That ballot initiative would not have passed under a 60 percent supermajority requirement,” our open letter states.

Issue 1 sends the wrong message to the nation, will be harmful to our business climate, and will make it far harder to attract and retain the 21st century talent who can choose to live and work in any state in the country: “A robust, functioning democracy is central to this country’s greatness and critical to sustaining our extraordinary free enterprise system. Business depends on a healthy, vibrant democracy – one that includes a stable rule of law, and reliable rules and procedures for securing changes to our laws,” business leaders write in our open letter.

For 40-plus years, I’ve been privileged to work closely with seven Ohio governors and hundreds of corporate CEOs in a bipartisan manner, affirming the inextricable link between business competitiveness, economic growth, social justice and the strength of our democracy.

I join my distinguished colleagues in condemning Issue 1 and call on all Ohioans to protect their rights, freedom and voice by voting "no" on August 8.

Richard A. Stoff, a longtime resident of Columbus, is senior advisor to the Leadership Now Project. Stoff was the founding president and CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable. He retired from that role in 2017.  

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Why is Ohio Issue 1 'an unprecedented affront to our democracy?'| Richard Stoff