The groups behind the effort to put abortion rights to a vote in Ohio this fall announced Wednesday that they’d officially turned in “over 700,000” signatures to get the proposal on the ballot.
Per the groups, they only needed 413,487 signatures to qualify. Organizers told TPM that they were aiming far above that threshold, to ensure plenty of buffer.
“The signatures were collected over the course of approximately 12 weeks and secured in all 88 Ohio counties,” they said in a press release.
The primary group behind the effort, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, is made up of a coalition of other pro-abortion rights groups, including Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.
The groups’ Wednesday press briefing was frequently punctuated by raucous applause. The speakers reminded the crowd of the state’s six-week gestational ban, which is currently blocked by a court — a symbol of the extreme precarity of abortion rights in a state government by a Republican governor, Republican-majority legislature and a state Supreme Court that is newly heavily dominated by conservatives.
The abortion rights groups had already surmounted other hurdles, including getting the ballot text of the amendment — “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety” — okayed by mostly Republican officials.
Meanwhile, Republican state legislators have been pushing their own ballot amendment, transparently meant to sink the abortion rights effort.
Among other things, the Republican proposal would raise the threshold for citizen-initiated ballot amendments to 60 percent from its current simple majority. Proposals initiated in the legislature, interestingly, would not be subject to an increased threshold.
The Republicans’ amendment would land on the ballot in an oddly timed August election — three months before the abortion one goes before voters.
Wednesday’s signature submission is one of the last, and most significant, boxes for the pro-abortion rights groups to check. The organizers were hellbent on getting the amendment on the ballot in 2023, a much quieter electoral cycle than 2024, and one where nationwide money and support for expanding abortion rights could be channeled to their effort, the only game in town. Many other states are working on their own ballot amendment efforts, most of which are slated for next year.
“For those who wonder can this be done, can we defeat the anti-democracy efforts in August and can we pass this amendment in November, let me tell you something — this coalition has been up against the full force of the corrupt government in Columbus for a decade and we still have abortion access in every corner of the state,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, said Wednesday. “We will win in August when we vote no and we will win in November when we vote yes.”