Ohio 2023 General Election Preliminary Results
The 2023 Ohio General Election reached an unusually high turnout for an odd-numbered election year, thanks to two statewide ballot issues. Issue 1 garnered national attention, as Ohio became the latest state to enshrine reproductive rights in a state constitution after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, with the constitutional amendment passing 56% to 44%.
Issue 2, an initiated statute, also passed and legalizes recreational marijuana use for adults by a similar margin. Ohio becomes the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
In addition to the statewide issues, the November General Election also featured local municipal races including Columbus City Council moving to a new hybrid district system and all of Cincinnati’s city council seats being contested. Multiple Mayors races were held on Tuesday as well.
Below is the Bricker Graydon government relations team’s analysis of the unofficial results.
I. Issue 1 – Reproductive Rights.
Ohioans overwhelmingly passed Issue 1 on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. The constitutional amendment passed with 56% of the vote. The margin of support is notable on the heels of the failed constitutional amendment, in the August Special Election, which would have raised the threshold for amending Ohio’s constitution to 60%.
Ohio joins California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont, and Kansas as states that have voted for abortion rights since Roe was overturned in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) indicated the legislature may move to propose a repeal amendment, saying in a statement, “This isn't the end. It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.” House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) echoed that sentiment with similar remarks aimed at exploring all options available to push back on the constitutional change.
II. Issue 2 – Authorizing Recreational Marijuana Use for Adults.
The Buckeye state became the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana use on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. Under the new law, which takes effect on December 7, 2023, employers can still maintain drug free workplaces and test employees for drug use. Bricker Graydon will be providing additional resources for employers as the state prepares for the law’s effective date.
Because this issue was an initiated statute (unlike a change to the constitution like Issue 1), the General Assembly can amend the language and some legislative leaders have expressed a desire to increase the tax rate for recreational marijuana companies. Again, President Huffman indicated the legislature may act, saying, “The state may consider amending the statute to clarify the questionable language regarding THC and tax rates as well as other parts of the statute.”
Additionally, the Ohio statute does not override federal prohibitions on marijuana.
III. Key Municipal Races.
The City of Columbus held its first election for city council under a new hybrid system where candidates run to represent districts, but are elected at large by the entire city electorate. Under the system, Council expanded to 9 seats from 7. Most candidates, incumbents and newcomers were unopposed, including Council President Shannon Hardin, but there were three contested districts. In the end, all incumbents and candidates endorsed by the Franklin County Democratic Party prevailed. Below are the elected city council members and their respective districts.
Name *(asterisk denotes incumbent)
Lourdes Barroso De Padilla*
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther prevailed in his bid for a third term, defeating Joe Motil, earning 63% of votes cast.
In a race where all nine city council seats are contested collectively, Republican incumbent Liz Keating finished 10th out of 10 candidates, giving Cincinnati Democrats a clean sweep. Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney led all candidates, earning over 49,000 votes. Anna Albi will be the only new member of the Council. Below are the nine prevailing candidates in order of votes received (*italics denotes incumbent).
- Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney
- Meeka Owens*
- Reggie Harris*
- Victoria Parks*
- Scotty Johnson*
- Mark Jeffreys*
- Anna Albi
- Jeff Cramerding*
- Seth Walsh*
The results demonstrate the quickly changing demographics of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Notable contests for the 2024 election feature Hamilton County Prosecutor Melissa Powers (R) running for a full term and expecting a strong Democratic challenger. Ms. Powers was appointed in January 2023 after Governor DeWine appointed Joe Deters to the Ohio Supreme Court. The First Congressional District, currently held by U.S. Rep. Greg Landsman (D), is also expected to be competitive.
Shamas Malik was elected the new Mayor of Akron on Tuesday, defeating a write-in challenger. Malik, who currently serves on City Council and is a former law director for the city said in a victory speech last night, “It's an incredible honor. It's an incredible privilege. I'm a product of this community, and I'm going to do my best every single day to try and serve this community.”
Findlay elected Christina Muryn to her second full term as Mayor. Mayor Muryn was appointed in 2019 to replace Lydia Mihalik, who was appointed by Governor DeWine as Director of the Ohio Department of Development. Mayor Muryn went on to win the November 2019 election for her first full term. On her victory last night, defeating a write-in candidate, Mayor Muryn said, “I know that we’ve accomplished a lot over the last four years but we have a lot more work to do and I’m very excited to continue to lead the city of Findlay.”
IV. Municipal Ballot Issues and Levies.
A. Cincinnati Southern Railway.
In a narrow result, 51%-49%, the voters of Cincinnati chose to sell the country’s only municipal-owned railway. The 337-mile railroad runs to Chattanooga, TN, and is used exclusively for freight, although it did carry passengers at points during its history. Norfolk Southern, who currently leases the railway, is purchasing the railway for $1.6 billion. The city will invest the sale funds into a trust fund. The fund is projected to produce $40 to $50 million per year, which will be utilized for infrastructure projects throughout the city. The city manager’s office prepared a proposed spending plan in a report delivered to city council.
B. School Levies.
Overall, Ohio’s school districts had a strong showing. According to the Ohio School Board Association’s database, 115 spending issues of 168 passed.
The 2023 election cycle ended with definitive victories on issues that traditionally skew democratic, giving the Ohio Democratic Party hope for a strong showing in 2024, despite Ohio Republican dominance the last several election cycles. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D) is one of the top targets for national Republicans next year. However, a competitive primary awaits to decide his challenger. Additionally, multiple Ohio Supreme Court seats are contested next year, in races that could decide the partisan control of the court. All 99 House seats and half of the Senate’s seats are up next year. Finally, and who could forget, 2024 is a presidential election year as well.
The Bricker Graydon government relations team is already looking ahead to the March 2024 Primary election, analyzing the competitive State House and Senate primary contests. We stand ready to help you navigate the political landscape next year and beyond.