Ohio’s 2023 Special Election Results: Winners and Losers

postcards to voters


Blue Wave Postcard Movement/political junkie friend, what is there to say about the magnificent results of Ohio’s August 8th Special Election that you haven't already heard? 

No deep dive is required regarding why the gerrymandered GOP Ohio legislature violated its own efforts to do away with August Special Elections this past April, only to to plop a single issue election (designed to limit the power of voters) at a traditionally low-turnout time of year, mere months later. You know all about that.

Maybe you’re also aware that a super special arsenal of voter suppression tactics were employed leading up to and during in-person voting, including: 

  • purging over 625K voters from the rolls without their knowledge since 2018, 
  • allowing no same-day registration to voters who belatedly found out they had been purged, 
  • consolidating 84 voting precincts into 3 locations in Lawrence county alone - that’s 19 voting machines for 84 precincts - due to the Secretary of State’s “anticipated low turnout” of 8% (that location’s # was closer to 20% - other locations were closer to 30%),  
  • hours-long waits in some “consolidated” in-person voting locations, resulting in some working citizens unable to wait to vote,
  • additional county polling locations being moved or consolidated at the last minute, causing confusion among voters, 
  • Limiting drop off boxes for early voting to one per county, open only during business hours and closed the Monday before an election,
  • a new requirement for IDs - among the strictest in the country - which targeted the BIPOC community, OOS students attending Ohio Universities, elderly, disabled, rural, military and others, resulted in confusion at the polls.

Yet despite these and other factors, the people of Ohio spoke: Issue 1 failed by a 57 to 43% margin! What might those numbers have been, had suppression tactics not been a factor?

YAY for our pro-democracy voters across demographic and political lines, for grass-roots organizers on the ground, for those across the nation who donated, wrote postcards, texted and phone banked to GOTV!  Blue Wave Postcard Movement writers alone sent almost 300K postcards to Ohio voters!

As we bask in All This Winning, indulge me in just a teeny, tiny moment of schadenfreude toward the undemocratic forces who lost BIGLY in this contest, and the implications of that loss, including: 

  • The far right attempts to limit reproductive choices by urging the state legislature to change ballot-measure rules mid-stream. Even some conservative voters saw through this attempt to circumvent the democratic process and limit politicians’ accountability - they weren’t happy. One example: in deep red Geauga County - who hadn’t voted D since 1964 - the NO votes won in a 52% majority.
  • BTW - the “raising the voting threshold/moving the goal-posts mid-stream” strategy doesn’t sit well with voters in general, as evidenced by similar proposals that recently failed by wide margins in Arkansas and South Dakota. In Missouri, where Republicans have been floating a similar idea for 2024, there is now a reluctance to move forward with the proposal. As former Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, points out, when antidemocratic proposals succeed, they become the playbook in other gerrymandered states. But if they go down in flames, the extremists retreat from the strategy.
  • Ohio Secretary of State, Frank LaRose (R)’s willingness to be the face of this effort - perhaps hoping to score political points before his Senate run for Democrat Sherrod Brown’s seat - is now the target of primary challengers who accuse him of “strategic failures.” There is now talk of him dropping out of the Senate race.
  • While most Republicans kept their distance, failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Keri Lake specifically traveled to Ohio to drum up support for a Yes vote on Issue 1. {insert face palm emoji here}
  • Illinois GOP donor Richard Uihlein alone donated $4M of the close to $5M raised for the “YES on Issue 1” campaign through the “Protect Our Constitution” organization. In the ultimate irony, this group’s argument in favor of raising the threshold for ballot measures was promoting the fear in their target voters that “out-of-state money could influence elections.” Hypocritical, much?
  • Youth voter turnout not only surged (despite stricter ID laws), but also came out resoundingly against Issue 1 in the August Special Election. This is a voting block that is increasingly active, politically aware and strikes fear in the hearts of GOP autocrats. 

But by indulging in the hijinks of attempting to subvert the will of the people, the Ohio GOPs most fatal mistake was awakening a sleeping giant: the grassroots organizers who were laser-focused on this election. The GOP thought their power grab could happen under the radar in an off year. Instead, Ohio became the focal point of both statewide and national politics. Now, pro-democracy forces are revved-up and ready for the November 2023 election to enshrine reproductive rights in the Ohio state constitution, as well as running more representative candidates to challenge these bad-faith, state government office-holders in the 2024 election.

As George Takei tweeted earlier:

“Ohio is creating a political earthquake today felt across the nation with the resounding defeat of Issue 1.

GOP: Your extremism and anti-democratic scheming went down to crushing defeat once more.

And it’s going to get worse for you from here.”

Live long and prosper, citizens. Let’s keep the momentum running through 2024 and beyond.

-Lisa, Marketing Director/SoBo Coordinator 

(Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash)

Back to blog

Contribute to our blog!

We want to learn about your experiences with Blue Wave and political activism.