Former Vice President and 2024 presidential candidate Mike Pence dropped an ad Tuesday urging viewers to vote for a ballot measure that would make it much more difficult to pass citizen-initiated constitutional amendments in Ohio.
The measure, known as Issue 1, was crafted by state Republicans specifically to defeat a ballot proposal coming before voters in November that would enshrine abortion access in the state constitution. It would raise the passage threshold on citizen-initiated ballot measures — but not those originating in the Republican-dominated legislature — to 60 percent from its current simple majority. It would also require signature gathering from double the number of counties and eliminate a 10-day grace period to meet the signature requirements.
The special election Tuesday has thus become a proxy battle for the abortion initiative yet to come.
But various right-wing entities are wrapping in additional culture war talking points to their pro-Issue 1 campaign, perhaps concluding that making the fight about abortion alone isn’t enough to win it. It would be a valid concern based on the string of successes related to either increasing abortion access or swatting down restrictions in ballot proposals from Kentucky to Vermont.
Pence on Tuesday was the latest to use the tactic.
“Democrats want to keep the threshold as low as possible so they can pass abortion on demand, so they can advance their extreme gender ideology agenda and take away parents’ rights in education,” he said, referring to the threshold to pass the ballot proposals.
If the “extreme gender ideology agenda” and parental rights at schools feel completely unrelated to the Ohio elections, it’s because they are.
Protect Women Ohio, a coalition of right-wing and anti-abortion groups, made clear how circuitous a journey you have to take to connect these Fox News fixations to the situation in Ohio.
“Issue 1 will protect Ohio’s constitution from out-of-state special interest groups – like the ACLU – that try to circumvent the legislature and buy their way into the constitution,” a spokesperson told TPM. “The ACLU has a long and well-documented history of attacking parental rights, pushing trans ideology in classrooms, and encouraging sex changes for kids.”
The group has run ads throughout the campaign warning that the failure of the ballot measure will lead to kids getting sex change operations without parental consent, and invoking anti-trans themes.
Chloe Cole, an anti-trans activist who refers to herself as a “former trans kid,” spoke at a rally supporting Issue 1 in Cincinnati on Sunday, tweeting that Ohio is “leading the midwest away from radical gender ideology.”
Kari Lake held forth on a litany of culture war issues at a Union County Republicans event on Sunday in Ohio — which included pro-Issue 1 activism — opening her endorsement of Republican Ohio senatorial candidate Bernie Moreno with the applause line: “Back when we grew up, we knew that a boy was a boy and a girl was a girl.”
Turnout has been markedly high for the special election throughout early voting, despite its odd timing — which state Republicans chose despite passing a law scrubbing August special elections from the state’s calendar just a few months earlier.