How Ohio appeared when the first Ohio constitution was ratified on November 29, 1802

Dear friends of liberty,

Based on the research of attorneys Andy Russ and Ed Emsweller, the officers of the OLC Board of Directors are suggesting a NO Vote on Ohio Issue 1, the state issue which asks the question of whether or not a Constitutional Convention shall be held “to revise, alter or amend the Ohio Constitution.”

We have attached the white paper for your reference in both PDF form (see at the bottom of this article) and in text below. We hope that you will find it useful in your decision of how to vote on this important issue for this November’s election.

Tom Zawistowski
President
Ohio Liberty Coalition

[hr]Also see our Ohio November 2012 Voter Resources Guide for more information on the Ohio election issues, candidates, and more.[hr]

Explanation of Issue 1

The question to be answered by the voters1 as to Issue 1 is, “Shall there be a convention to revise, alter, or amend the constitution,” i.e., shall there be a constitutional convention to change the Ohio Constitution? If the Issue is adopted by the voters, the state legislature (House and Senate) will provide for the election of delegates to a Constitutional Convention. No change in the Constitution, suggested by the delegates to the convention, can be made unless such suggested change is approved by the majority of Ohio voters.

Article 16, Section 2 of the Constitution provides the law as to constitutional conventions. This section is referred to in the text of Issue 1 where it discusses “the assembling of such convention, as is provided in the preceding section . . . .” This Section provides that:

Candidates for members of the constitutional convention shall be nominated by nominating petitions only and shall be voted for upon one independent and separate ballot without any emblem or party designation whatever. The convention shall consist of as many members as the House of Representatives, who shall be chosen as provided by law, and shall meet within three months after their election, for the purpose, aforesaid.

Thus, preceding a general vote on amendments proposed by delegates to a convention would be an election of those delegates—an expensive process.

As the Issue 1 language itself indicates, the question of calling a constitutional convention has been placed on the ballot every 20th year since 1912. The same question was raised five times prior to that year. As you can see from the following table, the call for a convention has not often been answered in the affirmative by Ohio voters.

Ohio Constitution Timeline2

1787:
  • Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

1802:

  • Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1802.
  • Ohio Constitution of 1802.

1819:

  • Call for constitutional convention failed.
1849:
  • Call for constitutional convention passed.
1850-51:
  • Constitutional Convention of 1850-51.
  • Ohio Constitution of 1851.
1871:
  • Call for constitutional convention passed.
1873-74:
  • Constitutional Convention of 1873-74.
  • Constitution of 1873-74 rejected by voters.
1891:
  • Call for constitutional convention failed.

1910:

  • Call for constitutional convention failed.
1912:
  • Constitutional Convention of 1912.
  • Voters approved 34 of 42 proposed 1912 amendments to the Ohio Constitution, one of which provided that every 20 years, voters be asked whether Ohio should hold a constitutional convention (Art. 16, §3).

1932:

  • Call for constitutional convention failed.

1952:

  • Call for constitutional convention failed.

1972:

  • Call for constitutional convention failed.

1992:

  • Call for constitutional convention failed.

2012:

  • Call for constitutional convention to be placed on ballot as Issue 1.

Arguments for and Against

In the past, various factions have favored constitutional conventions to consider such issues as legislative apportionment, longer terms for elected state officials, and judicial reform.3 More recently, a writer for calling a convention argued:

Through General Assembly grandstanding and voter-petitioned special-interest amendments, the constitution is bloated with arguably unnecessary verbiage. For example, the constitution specifies, by tax-parcel numbers, the exact locations of the four casinos under construction in Ohio. That meant that re-siting the Columbus casino across town required a statewide referendum. That’s just one of the legal absurdities the Constitutional Modernization Commission needs to address as it moves forward.4

Those opposing conventions have asserted that the constitution is essentially sound and that the needed changes can be made through more effective and less expensive methods.5

A 2006 Plain Dealer article6 provided pros and cons of calling a convention, the issues, arguments and proposals contained in the article are summarized as follows:

[twocol_one]

Pro (call a convention)

  • creaky government designed by all-male (and likely all-white) conventions runs Ohio.
  • piecemeal updates to the Constitution don’t give voters civic tools the times demand.
  • Redesign the General Assembly as a one-house legislature.
  • Pass an Ohio Equal Rights Amendment.
  • Ask voters to ratify amendments on school taxes, capital punishment, gun ownership, and abortion.
  • provide for appointment rather than election of the attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.
  • Repeal term limits for state officials.
  • Require Ohio’s presidential electors to vote for the candidate who gets the most popular votes in Ohio.
  • Provide for open meetings and open records guarantees.

[/twocol_one]

[twocol_one_last]

Con (do not call a convention)

  • Does Ohio need significant reform, and if so, is a constitutional convention the best way to achieve it?
  • The problems faced by Ohioans are not the result of fundamental defects in the Ohio Constitution.
  • The issues likely to be considered in a constitutional convention—abortion, civil unions, eminent domain, gambling, gun control, home rule, judicial selection, school funding, tax reform, term limits and tort reform—are extremely divisive. Use of a constitutional convention as a means of reform would be expensive, requiring a deeply divisive and costly election for delegates preceding the a vote on the issues themselves.
  • A strong popular consensus in favor a constitutional reform is a condition for a successful constitutional convention— there is no such existing popular consensus.
  • The main questions are: is there a need for major reform and revision of the Constitution and is a constitutional convention the best way to make revisions?

[/twocol_one_last]

The argument on the “con” side focuses on whether, given that fundamental changes in the constitution are needed, a convention is the best means to that end. It begs the question what other means are available. Currently, there are three basic ways7,8 and (2) initiative by the General Assembly.9

Conclusion

Since either “good” or “bad” amendments may be proposed through a constitutional convention, the issue is not the amendments themselves, but rather whether the Article 16, Section 3 (calling of a constitutional convention) method is the best means to effect revisions to the Constitution. The calling of a constitutional convention necessitates a separate election of delegates, requiring an expense not involved in the initiative processes. The expense of this method is its primary negative.

Moreover, such an expense is unwarranted because of a review of the Constitution to take place later this year. In June 2011, the Ohio legislature established the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, a bipartisan group of 12 legislative members and 20 non-legislative members who will serve at least two years. The commission is to meet in November and offer the legislature recommendations for improving the constitution. Any changes would have to be approved later by voters.10 Given this, together with the expense of calling a constitutional convention, we recommend a NO vote on Issue 1.

Please look over the enclosed proposed informational brochure and let us know if it suffices for your needs.

Sincerely,

Ed Emsweller, Esq. Andy Russ, Esq.

Footnotes

1 The Ohio Constitution uses the term electors for what is commonly referred to as voters. See Ohio Const. art. 5, section 1, entitled “Who may vote”:

Every citizen of the United States, of the age of eighteen years, who has been a resident of the state, county, township, or ward, such time as may be provided by law, and has been registered to vote for thirty days, has the qualifications of an elector, and is entitled to vote at all elections. Any elector who fails to vote in at least one election during any period of four consecutive years shall cease to be an elector unless he again registers to vote.

2 Adapted from “Ohio Constitution Timeline,” Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, https://www.law.csuohio.edu/lawlibrary/ ohioconstitution/timeline.

3 Archer Reilly, A Summary of the Campaigns For and Against the Constitutional Convention, 25 Ohio Bar J. 38 (Oct. 6, 1952).

4 Plain Dealer Editorial Bd., Constitutional Editors Gather in Ohio: Editorial, The Plain Dealer, Jan. 1, 2012. As for the Constitutional Modernization Commission, see infra page 4.

5 Reilly, supra note 3.

6 Thomas Suddes & Steven H. Steinglass, The Ohio Constitution: Is it Time for a Rewrite?, The Plain Dealer, Dec. 17, 2006.

7 See id.; see also, Steven H. Steinglass & Sue Altmeyer, Ohio Constitution – Law and History, https://www.law.csuohio.edu/ lawlibrary/ohioconstitution (citing Ohio Sec. State, Putting an Issue on the Ballot, http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/LegnAnd BallotIssues/issues.aspx.

8 Ohio const. art. 2, sections 1a, 1g; Ohio Revised Code, section 3519.

9 Ohio const. art. 2, section 1 provides that either branch of the legislature may propose an amendment. If agreed to by 60% of the General Assembly, the proposed amendment is placed on the ballot of a general or special election for the voters to consider.

10 See Kate Irby, Ohio Constitution to get a thorough review, The Plain Dealer, Sept. 24, 2012, available at http://blog.cleveland.com/open_impact/print.html?entry=/2012/09/ohio_constitution_to_get_a_tho.html.

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