Over 3 million Ohioans went to the polls on August 8th to have their voices heard in a direct attack on the Democratic process. Ohioans rejected the Republican-backed measure to increase the threshold needed to pass a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60%. Ohio voters delivered a clear message, with 56.6% of voters rejecting the change.
Democracy, even in the United States, is delicate. It’s like a fine piece of glass – handle it carefully, or it can break. In places like Florida and Ohio, we’re seeing just how delicate it can be, especially when some folks try to change the rules of the game. And, let’s be clear: it’s the Republicans who are pushing for the changes. Florida Republicans have filed a bill every year since 2017 in the state legislature to alter Florida’s constitutional amendment process.
A little history on Florida’s direct democracy
Prior to 2006, Florida required a simple majority of 50 percent-plus-one of Florida voters to pass an amendment to the state constitution. In 2006, 58% of Florida voters backed Amendment 3. This move instituted a 60% supermajority threshold for most amendments in the Sunshine State. Though it seemed like a measure to bolster democracy, the irony was stark: the proposal itself didn’t meet its own lofty standard.
Since 2017, Republicans in Florida have aimed to push the 60% threshold even further, targeting a bar of 66%. It’s akin to saying: unless two out of every three friends concur on a movie choice, the group doesn’t watch anything.
What does the direct democracy process look like in other states?
For context, let’s cast our eyes on the broader American landscape. Most states operate on the principle that voters can approve legislature-crafted amendments with a simple majority vote. But exceptions exist:
- New Hampshire demands a two-thirds vote.
- Florida requires a three-fifths vote (60%) for most of its amendments.
- Colorado has set a 55% threshold for the majority of its amendments.
Furthermore, 17 states have carved another avenue for enacting changes, opening doors to citizen-initiative processes. This mechanism empowers the everyday citizen, reinforcing the spirit of democracy by offering them a say in sculpting their state’s constitution.
Ballot initiatives serve as a mirror to society, reflecting our desires, concerns, and aspirations. When the government becomes corrupt or unattentive to the will of the people, citizens have the democratic power to vote and shape policy. The crux of the matter is this: with a 66% threshold, we risk silencing a significant portion of our society. It’s akin to placing a filter, where only the loudest, most dominant voices penetrate. This selective approach corrodes the foundation of democracy.
As 2024 approaches, we know Florida Republicans are prepping to file another bill to raise the threshold. We can’t afford to let partisan politics erode our ability to instigate change. Citizen-led ballot initiatives represent the heart of direct democracy – let’s ensure our voices aren’t silenced!
Use this link to find out how your lawmaker voted on the 2023 bill to raise the threshold to 66% and send them an email