Ohio is having a democracy crisis and it affects us all

Indivisible Guide
5 min readJul 18


By Molly Sandley, Indivisible National Political Manager

Screengrab via NBC4 Columbus

Ohio is having a democracy crisis. Whether or not you live in Ohio, it affects you.

To be more specific, the MAGA Republican legislature has created a democracy crisis by scheming to rip power away from the people in a hastily scheduled special election in August — a month when they know few people are paying attention to politics and few people historically vote.

At issue in the August election is a referendum that would raise the threshold for voters to amend the constitution from a simple majority to 60%. It’s the culmination of a more than decade-long crusade by the GOP to exert total, unbreakable one-party control over the state despite holding only a small majority among voters. How does that affect you if you’re outside of Ohio?

  1. If they win, they provide a model for anti-majoritarian MAGA governance in states nationwide.
  2. If they lose, we’ll have a chance to unrig Ohio electoral maps to not only break their stranglehold over Ohio politics, but to replace some of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the country with fair maps that could shift the balance of power in the House (bringing us closer to a Democratic trifecta).

Fortunately, Indivisible has a plan. With your support, we’re going to help Ohio voters protect their voting rights from a zombie election this August, codify reproductive freedoms into the state constitution in November, and push for nonpartisan electoral maps that could decide control of the House of Representatives in the future.

This is going to be one of the most important elections for our democracy in 2023. Please chip in to help us win >>

2023: Abortion rights are on the ballot — but the ballot itself is at risk

First, some background. Ohio has some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country and faced huge national attention in 2022 after a raped 10-year-old child was unable to receive the reproductive care she needed and was forced to endure additional trauma and travel to another state in order to get an abortion.

So a coalition of Ohio healthcare providers and abortion rights advocates created a ballot initiative (modeled on successful efforts in Michigan and Kansas) that would add protections for reproductive rights into the state constitution. They gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures using the constitutional amendment guidelines that have been in place in the state for over 100 years, and the measure is expected to be on the ballot this November. Sounds like democracy in action, right? Not so fast.

The MAGA Republican goal: ending majority rule in Ohio

Here’s the thing: Reproductive freedoms enjoy widespread, bipartisan support, and the Ohio initiative is backed by around 59% of voters. But instead of respecting the will of the voters, Republicans are instead working to permanently dismantle majoritarian direct democracy in the state and create a system where an extremist minority can overrule the will of the voters. How? With this election that raises the bar for passage for all future ballot initiatives to 60%, held on an August election date that they themselves outlawed less than a year ago due to low turnout in order to force through the change (that’s why it’s referred to as a zombie election).

It’s not subtle. But it’s right in line with how MAGA Republicans have been administering elections for years — extensive voter purges that removed tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, some of the most blatantly pro-Republican gerrymanders in the nation, even ignoring their own State Supreme Court when it ruled that the state’s Congressional maps were racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn.

Maps, maps, maps: the ongoing saga of Ohio’s racist gerrymandering and how it affects us all

This power grab may be targeted at abortion rights, but the fallout will impact our democracy even more broadly — and not just in Ohio.

Despite efforts by voters to demand fair maps, again and again, the ultimate responsibility has been left in the Republican legislature’s hands. And Republicans have ignored the protests of voters and demands of the Supreme Court to draw non-partisan boundaries. In fact, the 2022 midterms were held under maps that had been ruled illegal.

How gerrymandered are these maps? With just 54% of the vote, Republicans could potentially win almost 4/5 of the state’s congressional seats.

The good news: Voting rights groups are planning to get a fair maps initiative on the ballot next year that could finally end Republican map-rigging, break their super majority in the legislature and cut their majority in the House of Representatives in half.

That’s huge — for all of us, no matter where we live. But if this GOP referendum passes in August, it’ll be MUCH harder to achieve.

Saving democracy, one state at a time!

Ohioans don’t want to lose their power to determine their futures. They don’t want their reproductive freedoms shredded. They don’t want maps that dilute their power.

So MAGA Republicans’ only hope of success (where success = undermining majority rule to block access to reproductive care) is to bring back a zombie election and count on ultra-low turnout allowing them to solidify extremist-minority control. But here’s the great news: grassroots energy is incredibly high in Ohio, and Indivisible groups are taking action and fighting back.

Our groups are doing canvasses (perhaps as you read this) and working with allies to plan phonebanks. Indivisible is offering them resources to turn out the vote, and we’ve scheduled national textbanks that are carefully focused to maximize turnout. And we’ve got a massive postcarding campaign to come.

Every dollar we raise from this email will go toward mobilizing to win this critical August election — a crucial step toward codifying abortion rights in November and building power for 2024. If you’re able to help land a critical victory for democracy nationwide and deal a blow to MAGA attacks on majority rule, please chip in today >>

Thanks in advance for your support.



Indivisible Guide

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