Cleveland Plain Dealer: The Statehouse con on selling Issue 1 in the Aug. 8 election, exposed

There are many, many things wrong with how the GOP supermajority in the Ohio legislature is trying to ram through a hugely consequential constitutional amendment during a likely low-turnout August vote — an election costing $20 million to hold.

Our editorial board has already noted three strikes against what’s now titled Issue 1 on the Aug. 8 ballot: It upends more than a century of precedent on when to hold votes on major constitutional amendments; the ballot language is misleading and inaccurate; and the legality of the Aug. 8 election itself is questionable, at best.

Now, add a deceptive marketing campaign for Issue 1, as outlined at a recent high-level GOP lobbying meeting, details of which reporter Andrew J. Tobias confirmed with two participants.

What happened at the closed-door May 31 meeting at the Columbus Athletic Club, attended by about 50 high-rolling lobbyists and called by Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, reveals a strategy of misdirection, not truth.

The two attendees described to Tobias how Issue 1 backers plan to use a $6 million TV ad campaign to pretend the GOP’s attempt to make the Ohio Constitution exponentially more difficult to amend is to counter supposed out-of-state influence — when it’s really to defeat a reproductive rights ballot issue in November.

But the subterfuge is even deeper, given the double standards Issue 1 backers also plan to use to ensure that anti-abortion voters and gun-rights supporters turn out to vote Aug. 8, without saying “abortions” or “guns” in pro-Issue 1 ads. The solution: Let anti-abortion and gun-rights groups handle the special promotions needed to get these voters to the polls.

The irony is rich, since the only reason these groups would be energized to vote “Yes” on Issue 1 is because they see that citizen anger over the Ohio legislature’s efforts to criminalize reproductive health care has already led to a citizen-initiated abortion-rights amendment, and they fear that the legislature’s slavering support of guns means the same may happen with gun reform.

It’s a useful reminder of what citizens are being asked to give up through Issue 1 – the rights they’ve had since 1912 to use citizen-initiated amendments that need only get a majority of voters’ support to rein in Statehouse corruption and pay-to-play.

Which is also why backers of Issue 1 in the May 31 meeting reportedly urged proponents not to lean in on the 60% voting threshold the issue would require.

“‘You don’t say abortion. You don’t say 60%. You don’t bring up social issues that divide even Republicans. The focus will be on protecting the constitution from special interests,’ said one person with knowledge of the event, describing the presentation,” Tobias reported.

Backers of Issue 1 count on their ability to raise big money fast. There are now just 65 days until Aug. 8.

But to be forewarned is to be forearmed, as they say. Ohio voters who oppose this travesty should do everything they can to counter the deceit and manipulation by exercising their constitutional right as citizens to vote.

There will be only one issue on the Aug. 8 ballot — State Issue 1. Every Ohio voter will have the right to vote on this issue, either in person on Aug. 8, at their assigned polling places, or early, in-person at their local county Board of Elections, or absentee by mail, or by dropping off their vote-by-mail ballot at their local vote board’s ballot drop box.

The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 8 election is Monday July 10. Ohio’s new photo voter ID election law limits what identification can be used to vote, so plan accordingly.

Early, in-person voting at your county Board of Elections starts July 11. That’s also the day vote boards will start mailing out vote-by-mail ballots. In today’s Plain Dealer, you will find a vote-by-mail application. Don’t delay. Fill it out and mail it in (be sure to use enough postage) or deliver it in person to your Board of Elections.

Vote-by-mail applications will be accepted until Aug. 1, at 8:30 p.m., but election boards warn to submit well before this deadline to allow enough time to receive the ballot by mail, then mail it back in. Ohio’s new election law, which eliminated in-person voting on the Monday before Election Day, also narrowed the window when a mailed ballot can be received at the vote board to count.

Ohioans, don’t be manipulated and misled. Do what it takes to vote Aug. 8.