State Ballot Initiatives


A message from Attorney General Dave Yost:

On Nov. 7, 2023, Ohioans will have the opportunity to vote on two ballot initiatives. As is the case with almost all statewide issues, these initiatives involve controversial topics that have ardent supporters as well as fervent critics.

Both supporters and opponents of State Issue 1 — which deals with reproductive rights and abortion — and State Issue 2, the recreational marijuana statute, will have plenty to say about their respective policy positions. Too often, the rhetoric will become inflamed and inaccurate, with contradictory statements made about what the proposals would do. If history is any guide, the passions will run high but the amount of quality information will likely be low.

Someone recently told me that they weren’t worried about Issue 1 because “we'll still have the Heartbeat Bill.” Another person thought the initiative would amend the U.S. Constitution.

Such confusion among voters is why we have undertaken an analysis of the two issues. Ohio voters need, and deserve, a straightforward, balls-and-strikes assessment of both initiatives from a legal standpoint. The Ohio Attorney General is designated as the state’s chief legal officer and, in that role, I believe it is my duty to provide such analyses for all Ohioans so they can form their own opinion on the topics. These are not policy analyses — not “why,” but “what.”

At my direction, two teams of attorneys and professional staff — one for each issue — conducted the analyses and prepared the documents we are providing. I have reviewed their painstaking work, discussed the documents at length, and made changes where appropriate to convey their work in a way that is clear, honest and digestible.

As you'll see, the two analyses differ, and that's due to the extensive litigation history on the abortion issue.

This is not an exercise in advocacy. Rather, it is an effort to help Ohioans understand the legal impacts that Issue 1 and Issue 2 generate. As you’ll see, most of the legal ramifications of Issue 1 and Issue 2, if approved, are clear. Other aspects, however, are not clear and will most certainly end up in court. We have noted which is which.

If either or both of these issues pass, my office would be duty-bound to defend all parts of the laws where possible. My office will offer the best legal defenses available, even in hard cases. I believe that we owe Ohioans both information now and a strong defense later.

My office will not attempt to referee the back-and-forth accusations that are sure to come before the election. I will, however, provide Ohioans additional information if a statement is made that meets three criteria:

  1. The matter is one that the people of Ohio will vote on in an initiative to change Ohio law or the state constitution, exercising perhaps their most critical function as the actual sovereign.
  2. The assertion is both material and clearly erroneous — not merely mistaken or misframed, but an assertion that is patently false and not objectively defensible.
  3. The clearly erroneous assertion must be made by an organization with the credibility, scale and reach to widely disseminate it.

Again, my job is not to referee disagreements. We don’t have the resources to fact-check every statement made by proponents and opponents of the two initiatives, nor is it the purview of the government to do so. But we believe we’ve addressed the critical legal questions that Issue 1 and Issue 2 generate.

I hope that you find these analyses informative and valuable as you decide how to vote on Nov. 7. Whatever the outcome, I pledge to continue to do my duty to defend the laws of our great state.