Abortion rights, recreational marijuana moving closer to November ballot



(The Center Square) – Boards of election across Ohio have until July 20 to verify petition signatures that would put abortion rights and legalized recreational marijuana on the ballot in November.

Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Protect Choice Ohio delivered more than 700,000 signatures to Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Wednesday, the deadline to submit petitions to continue the push to make the November ballot.

LaRose said he would now send those signatures to county boards of elections to verify. The group needs 413,000 – 10% of the total vote in the last gubernatorial election – verified signatures to place adding a right to abortion to the state’s constitution on the ballot.

The standards for verification include whether each signer is registered to vote in the county, whether the signatures are genuine, whether any person signed more than once, and whether the petition papers include all of the required information, including the circulator’s statement.

LaRose has until July 25 to decide if the issue will make the ballot.

“This is a historic day for Ohio and for reproductive freedom. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for this herculean grassroots effort to ensure patients and doctors, not government extremists, are in control of making private medical decisions. Fortunately, the Ohio Constitution gives us the ability to take this popular issue directly to the people,” Lauren Blauvelt and Kellie Copeland, of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, said in a statement. “Today, we take a huge step forward in the fight for abortion access and reproductive freedom for all, to ensure that Ohioans and their families can make their own health care decisions without government interference.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol also delivered more nearly 223,000 signatures to LaRose’s office, needing a little more than 124,000 to be verified to make the November ballot.

The group began its effort more than two years ago. While several similar measures have been introduced in General Assembly by both Republicans and Democrats, none have passed.

Before November, however, voters will decide Aug. 8 whether to change how the public can amend the constitution.

Republicans pushed through and Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill to allow an Aug. 8 special election to have voters decide if they want a 60% voter-approval threshold to pass citizen-led constitutional amendments, rather than the 50% -plus one approval needed since 1912.

If that amendment passes with a 50%-plus one majority, both the abortion rights and recreational amendments would have to meet the higher vote margin.

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