Ohio residents voted to enshrine the right to abortion and reproductive care in the state constitution on Tuesday’s general election day, with Issue 1 gaining 56.6 percent of the vote. The result comes after a yearlong fight for reproductive care by doctors and advocates, who first introduced Issue 1 in summer 2022. With Issue 1 passing, Ohio is now the seventh state to protect abortion rights statewide. Issue 2, a measure approving the regulation and legalization of recreational marijuana, also received a majority vote, making Ohio the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Issue 1’s path to becoming a formal amendment to the state constitution began in June 2022, when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, returning the right to regulate abortions to individual states. A coalition of advocates, including Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, introduced the idea of a constitutional amendment, which would enshrine the right to reproductive care, contraceptives and abortion in the state constitution. The amendment also specifies that the state may not penalize or criminalize abortion before fetal viability. After gaining over 400,000 signatures from Ohio voters by July 5, the amendment appeared on the general election ballot on Tuesday for voters and received a majority vote.
Issue 1 will go into effect next month, and the amendment will impact a number of other reproductive care measures currently in effect in Ohio. In particular, the amendment will block the Heartbeat Bill, a measure which criminalized abortion after a fetal heartbeat could be detected; on average, a fetal heartbeat is detected around six weeks after gestation. While the Heartbeat Bill is already temporarily blocked in Ohio, Issue 1 will likely permanently bar the measure.
Statewide voter turnout decreased slightly from the 2022 general election, with approximately 3.8 million people voting on Tuesday out of approximately 8 million registered voters. In Knox County, almost 22,000 votes were cast, with a total voter turnout of 52 percent. Nearly 60 percent of electors in Knox County voted “No” on Issue 1. Issue 2 proved to be more divisive, with only 52 percent of electors voting “No” on the measure.
In the weeks leading up to the general election, several student organizations encouraged voter turnout among the student body. Center for the Study of American Democracy associates tabled in Peirce Dining Hall throughout September and October, prior to the voter registration deadline of Oct. 10. Planned Parenthood Generation Action assembled a document outlining the ways to vote in-person or by mail in Ohio, and regularly emailed the student body with information regarding Issue 1.
Despite advocacy from student organizations, voter turnout was low across Gambier’s three precincts, with around 600 of 2,600 registered voters showing up for the election.
One hindrance to voter turnout on Tuesday was last year’s midterm election, during which Ohio residents overwhelmingly voted to prevent persons who lacked electoral qualifications, such as U.S. citizenship, from voting in local elections. Consequently, in-person voting in Ohio this year required residents to have either an Ohio ID or a passport.
Though both Issue 1 and 2 have received a majority of votes, the election results remain unofficial until Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose certifies the result of the election. Results will become official approximately three weeks after the election, according to the Ohio Secretary of State website.