Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

The November general election includes an historic decision for Ohio voters: whether to amend the state constitution to guarantee the right to make reproductive decisions, including abortion. But the paper ballot that voters fill out won’t display the language that would be added to the constitution. Instead, they’ll see a summary of the amendment that proponents say is intentionally misleading.

Issue 1 is a ballot initiative written and supported by Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights (OURR). That coalition led a successful petition drive and suggested a summary of the amendment to be printed on ballots (you can read it here; the actual amendment is there too). State Attorney General Dave Yost approved that summary in March.

But at an August meeting of the Ohio Ballot Board, which certifies ballot language, the members voted 3-2 — along party lines — to adopt a different summary. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who chairs the ballot board, said at that meeting that he had “worked extensively on this draft” of the summary.

LaRose is a vocal opponent of abortion rights who supported a recent attempt to make it harder to amend the state constitution, in an effort to head off Issue 1. At the August meeting, motions by the two Democratic members of the board to clarify the summary, or use the actual amendment instead (it’s shorter), were voted down by the Republican majority. (Ohio Capital Journal reported that partisan battles over ballot language have been fought this year in other states as well.)

OURR filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that the ballot board’s summary “misrepresented many aspects of the Amendment in an improper attempt to persuade voters to vote against it.”

The court ultimately ordered the ballot board to make one small change to the summary and rejected the rest of OURR’s arguments.

Interactive ballot language

The following is the court-approved summary. The bold-face portions indicate the parts that OURR challenged. Click on the blue buttons for more information.

(Click here to view the interactive ballot with an accessibility player that shows the transcript and content in plain view with a special widget that allows the viewer to change the page appearance and use the built-in screenreader.)

Signal background

Director of the Editors’ Bureau (he/him)
Frank is an award-winning reporter and former editor at alternative newsweeklies in Cleveland and Philadelphia. He has worked with writers of all experience levels on beat reporting, features, investigative projects and books.