“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”

"As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” The Buckeye State was once considered the ultimate bellwether in electoral politics. While the state has trended conservative in recent years with Republicans, on average, out-performing Democrats in the state by a 54-46 percent margin, the State Legislature’s composition gives the illusion that Ohio is overwhelmingly in the Republican camp.

Following the 2022 midterm elections, the GOP held 26 of the 33 seats in the State Senate and 67 of the 99 State House seats. Alas, this lopsided, unrepresentative, and gerrymandered political makeup is not a recent phenomenon in Ohio. Rather, Republicans have retained supermajorities in the Ohio Legislature for multiple cycles, and, with Republican Mike DeWine in the Gvernor’s Mansion, the party has unfettered control over the entire state.

Unfortunatel, not only for the basic democratic principle that elected officials ought to proportionally represent the voters’ political will, but also for the rights and protection of Ohioans, the state has suffered exorbitantly from the Republican trifecta’s extremist policies, curtailing abortion rights, removing gun regulations, and undermining our democracy.The conservative extremism was first evident in 2019 when the legislature, without the support of a single Democrat, passed a bill, which DeWine signed into law, outlawing abortion after cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks, often before women know that they are pregnant. 

After the Supreme Court’s decision that there exists no constitutional right to abortion last summer, Ohio’s Republican Attorney General, Dave Yost, announced that the law would take effect immediately. The devastating impacts of Republicans’ shortsightedness was evident shortly thereafter when a raped ten year-old girl had to travel to Indiana to obtain an abortion for a six weeks and three days pregnancy because the law made no exceptions for rape victims.

While, at the abortion bill signing ceremony in 2019, DeWine explained that it is “imperative to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” evidently his concern stops once the child is born, which is made clear by his unabashedly irresponsible gun policy. 

Following a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton that killed nine individuals and injured 17 others, DeWine guaranteed to do “everything that I can to see that something positive comes out of this horrible tragedy.” However, with the Republican-controlled legislature’s help, he signed a “constitutional carry” bill into law in early 2022, breaking his promise to grieving Ohioans. 

The law permits individuals to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, does not require any gun training to own the weapon, and, if these deadly enactments were not enough, removes any background checks prior to gun ownership. By making Ohio a “constitutional carry” state, Republicans have decided to play Russian roulette with Ohioans’ safety and, tragically, only make massacres like the one in Dayton more likely.

Ironically, yet unsurprisingly, while Ohio Republicans removed safeguards to obtain a firearm, they simultaneously placed a myriad of burdens on Ohio voters. On a party-line vote, the Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 458, which the governor signed into law in early 2023. Among other provisions, the law imposes stringent voter-ID requirements, permits only one dropbox per county, shortens the time to request an absentee ballot, and reduces the number of days in which election offices can receive absentee ballots.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose claimed that this law exemplifies how the state government is “dedicated to continuously improving our elections.” However, contrary to LaRose’s statement, election security is a mere pretext for Ohio Republicans’ more nefarious goals of suppressing election turnout amongst voters that have historically experienced the most barriers in exercising their franchise.

Now comes House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1), which seeks to change Ohio’s system for referendums to amend the state’s constitution, making the entire process more difficult. First, it would eliminate the so-called “cure” period, where groups attempting to get a referendum on the ballot can gather additional signatures while also requiring signatures from all 88 Ohio counties instead of the currently mandated 44. Most vitally, the bill would raise the threshold needed to approve an amendment to 60 percent from the current 50 percent. Thus, presenting a potential situation where the will of 59 percent of Ohioans could be subordinate to a 41 percent minority.     

With their outsized, unrepresentative power in the Statehouse, Republicans have foisted an uncompromisingly conservative agenda onto Ohioans, which strips women of their bodily autonomy, proliferates gun violence, and subverts the state’s democratic system. In choosing extremism, Ohio Republicans commit themselves to a political trajectory that lacks decency, commonsense, and integrity. The citizens of this state—Democrats and Republicans alike—deserve better. 

Zachary Geiger from Canton is a University of Notre Dame student participating in the Write to Vote Project.