(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Voting is underway in Ohio in a special election concerning whether to make it harder to amend the state’s constitution — a vote which could have big implications for abortion rights in the state.

If passed during Tuesday’s election with a simple majority, State Issue 1 would make it more difficult for a measure that would enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution to pass later this year. A “yes” vote on Issue 1 means that constitutional amendments, including the abortion amendment, would need 60% support, rather than the existing minimum of 50% plus one. The increased threshold would be put into place immediately if passed.

Issue 1 also would create more strict signature requirements for citizen-led measures to appear on the ballot. Currently, organizers must collect a number of signatures equal to 5% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election from half of Ohio’s 88 counties. If Issue 1 passes, organizers would need signatures from all 88 counties.

Additionally, Issue 1 would eliminate the 10-day cure period, during which citizens can replace any signatures rejected by the state.

The special election’s early vote turnout has soared, with more than 578,000 people voting by mail or in person since early voting began on June 23.

Critics have denounced Tuesday’s election as a scrambled effort by Ohio’s GOP to alter election rules to undermine November’s abortion ballot measure.

“Let me tell you what this issue has always been about: abortion and reproductive freedom,” state Sen. Kent Smith said in a video urging Ohioans to vote against Issue 1. “From the very beginning, Ohio Republicans have been trying to make it harder for Ohioans to reclaim their almost 50-year legal right to be able to make their own reproductive health care decisions. … The Republicans are trying to rig the rejection of the abortion rights amendment in November, which is why a ‘no’ vote on Aug. 8 is so critical.”

Republicans have defended Issue 1 by saying it is an effort to protect Ohio’s state constitution from the influence of special interest groups.

“VOTE YES ON ISSUE 1 to: Protect Ohio Values, Preserve the People’s Power [and] Defend Ohio’s Constitution,” tweeted the Ohio Republican Party.

But a high-ranking official in Ohio’s GOP reportedly admitted that the party is in fact organizing around Issue 1 to hinder the vote on abortion rights this November.

“This is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose said at an event in May, according to local TV station WCMH.

Ohio is the only state set to vote on abortion rights this year. The amendment would establish a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” in Ohio’s constitution and provide protections across five categories: contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.

In 2022, similar measures resulted in several victories for abortion rights advocates. California, Michigan, and Vermont voters enshrined abortion rights into their state constitutions. Kansas and Kentucky struck down initiatives that would have amended their constitutions to say they do not protect the right to an abortion.

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