Abortion rights and marijuana questions expected to drive Ohioans to polls as early voting begins


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Heavier-than-normal turnout is expected Wednesday as early voting begins in Ohio’s closely watched off-year election to decide the future of abortion access and marijuana legalization in the state.

Of greatest interest nationally is Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment giving every person “the right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.” The effort comes on the heels of a string of victories for abortion rights proponents around the country who have been winning in both Democratic and deeply Republican states since the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion was overturned.

Both sides tried to gin up enthusiasm over the past week as they hosted rallies and canvassing events across the state.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the yes campaign, emphasizes the measure’s ability to keep Ohio’s ban on most abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected from taking effect. A judge’s order has placed the 2019 law on hold, but the Ohio Supreme Court is considering whether to lift that stay.

Proponents’ ads argue that abortion-related decisions should be kept between a woman and her family, doctor and faith leaders, not regulated by government.

The opposition campaign, Protect Women Ohio, has zeroed in on questions raised by Issue 1’s loose wording, citing legal theories — as yet, untested — that passing the amendment would jeopardize Ohio’s parental consent requirements for minors receiving abortions and other types of medical care.

Opponents also have campaigned heavily on the idea that the amendment would allow abortions to happen in the final stages of pregnancy, despite such procedures being rare and generally involving life-threatening situations. Misinformation has also swirled around the campaign.

Sam Zern, a regional field organizer for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and a graduate student at Kent State University, said the organization has seen “an inspiring amount of energy on college campuses” around the state.

Spokesperson Amy Natoce said Protect Women Ohio has seen good turnout at its events, including Friday’s March for Life at the Statehouse, and is putting “a huge emphasis on people getting out and banking their vote before Nov. 7.”

Issue 2 on Ohio’s ballot is an initiated statute advanced by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol that would allow adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to grow plants at home. A 10% tax would be imposed on purchases, to be spent on administrative costs, addiction treatment programs, municipalities with dispensaries and social equity and jobs programs.

Passage would make Ohio the 24th state to legalize cannabis for adult use.

Opponents include the Ohio Business Roundtable, which represents executives from more than 100 of Ohio’s largest employers, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

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