Blow Out Alert: Issue 1 Romps, Issue 2 Fails Massively

State Constitutional Amendments Receive Verdict of Ohioans

By John Corrigan


(COLUMBUS) Ohio voters have spoken loudly about amendments to the State’s Constitution. The verdict? Ohio’s Constitution will enshrine further rights for crime victims and will not enter into price fixing for prescription drugs.

In Ohio’s most expensive initiative in history to amend its Constitution, Issue 2, voters overwhelmingly rejected an attempt according to the language submitted, “to require State Agencies to not pay more for prescription drugs than The Federal Department of Veterans Affairs and require State payment of attorney fees and expenses to specific individuals for defense of the law.”  

At press time, the negative side was prevailing by a resounding 81% to 19% of the vote.

Issue 2 was an explosive campaign, with big money spent on both sides, but mainly from the opponents, almost exclusively financed by the pharmaceutical industry. Upwards of $73 million was spent on advocacy and opposition to the issue, with at least $40 million since July alone.

Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices was chaired by former GOP State Chairman Matt Borges. It enlisted the likes of Socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and a host of more liberal leaning organizations to support the issue. Its lead funder, now known to every Ohioan by name, Californian Michael Weinstein, is the President and Founder of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world’s largest non-profit AIDS fighting organization.

PHARMA, the Pharmaceutical Industry’s long arm came down heavy on Weinstein and Issue 2. The Prescription Drug Industry owned Ohio’s airwaves, direct mail, telephone, and social media in a manner so dominant that it seemed to exhaust the electorate by the times polls closed at 7:30 p.m. this evening.

Proponents argued that Ohio could take a step forward for more affordable prescriptions for consumers, and estimated that the Amendment would save Ohio taxpayers $400 million annually. That number was disputed by The Office of Management and Budget, and opponents honed in on an obscure section of the proposed Amendment that would have forced taxpayers to cover any legal costs associated with the implementation of the Amendment had it passed.

Issue 1 was described as “Rights for Crime Victims” and spelled out additional safeguards for crime victims including notification procedures that do not exist under current law and are now enshrined in the State’s Constitution.  Among its supporters is Attorney General Mike DeWine, an announced 2018 candidate for Ohio Governor on the Republican side.

The issue was passing by an overwhelming count of 83% to 17% as of press time.

Secretary of State Jon Husted does not predict turnout in off year elections, but absentee ballots returned had increased slightly in 2017 from 2015.  

Issue 1 was a well funded ballot initiative financed by California Dr. Henry T. Nichols. Nichols’ sister Marsy was stalked and killed by her boyfriend in 1983. Subsequently, Dr. Nichols has parlayed his business practice success into a lifelong crusade to amend the U.S. and 15 State Constitutions that did not offer full rights under the law to crime victims about certain particulars of perpetrators, including notification of crime victims’ families upon release of a perpetrator.  Nicholas’ mother was confronted in a grocery store by her daughter’s murderer, an event that led to this national effort.

Last minute opposition from the state’s judges and bar association did not dissuade voters from backing the amendment.  Both argued that the amendment was well intentioned but could provide unintended consequences, increased costs, and delays in the criminal justice system.

Marsy’s law proponents hired many bipartisan campaign operatives, signed up politicians from all political spectrums for social and paid media.  A sophisticated campaign with an emotional appeal overtook the more nuanced and less costly campaign of opponents. Proponents spent nearly $9 million dollars in the successful effort, with no formal opposition.

The lopsided victory of Issue 1 and equally lopsided defeat of Issue 2 corresponded closely to the funds raised and spent on each side.