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Daily Court Reporter - News Second version of Ohio Constitution has changed little since its creation


Second version of Ohio Constitution has changed little since its creation

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

Minus some Progressive reforms added in the early 20th century, the second iteration of the Ohio Constitution remains the fundamental law today.

The 1851 Constitution was meant to mitigate a shortcoming of the state's original constitution - a government dominated by the legislative branch, according to the Ohio Historical Connection's Ohio History Central website.

Delegates missed their mark, as the Ohio Legislature remained the dominant branch - the governor lacked the veto power, the legislature had taxing authority and county formation was left to legislators.

The new constitution, however, gave Ohio voters the right to elect the governor, other high-ranking state officials and judges, the entry continued. Previously, the legislature appointed judges and all government officials, except the governor.

Because the original constitution required the state supreme court to meet in each county every year and the number of counties since statehood had increased nearly tenfold, the state's court system became backed up and the high court was unable to meet its constitutional requirements.

The new constitution introduced a third level of district courts that would hear appeals of the common pleas courts and free up the supreme court.

Delegates voted down measures to extend suffrage to the state's black residents or to women.

Ohio voters again called for a constitutional convention in 1871, mostly to address the state's rapidly growing population.

"Between 1850 and 1870, Ohio's population had increased by more than 700,000 people to 2.7 million residents," Ohio History Central noted.

The larger population again bogged down the state's court system, with many cases sitting idle for years before a hearing.

Proposals including introduction of yet another new level of courts called circuit courts, a two-year term for lawmakers, veto authority by the governor and items addressing education and women's rights, were all for naught as voters rejected the constitution by a vote of 102,885 in favor of ratification and 250,169 opposed to the document's adoption.

The entry noted that It was unclear why Ohioans so soundly rejected the revised constitution.

A measure giving the state some oversight in the sale of alcohol, appearing on the same ballot, however, is believed to have prompted some temperance supporters to vote against both issues.

Finally, in 1912, the electorate approved 33 amendments, reflecting Progressive reforms of the era - state regulation of working conditions, establishment of eight-hour working day for public works employees and creation of a mandatory workmen's compensation system.

Municipal home rule, direct primary elections and amendments dealing with education and conservation also were approved.

Of the amendments voted down were women's suffrage, a ban on the death penalty and a measure to remove the word "white" from the constitution.

"The language of the constitution would be more reflective of the rights that existed for all of the citizens of Ohio," the entry noted.

A permanent exhibit of the Ohio constitution was established last fall in the Statehouse Museum. The exhibit features both the 1802 and 1851 Ohio constitutions.

Utilizing the original documents in conjunction with visitor-interactive displays, the exhibit is intended to answer the questions, what is the Ohio constitution, what does it do and how does it impact Ohioans in the 21st century?

Date Published: May 22, 2019


Copyright © 2019 The Daily Reporter - All Rights Reserved


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