Ohio’s Special Election Is a Big Win for Democracy, and a Preview to 2024

Even though all eyes are on the 2024 presidential election, we cannot miss the important opportunity to celebrate communities and voters who are taking action in 2023. This year, voters in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi will be electing their next governor. The results of thousands of mayoral, city council, and school board races will determine the future of housing, policing, and education in municipalities across the country. And voters in Ohio will provide a sneak peak of what’s to come in the ballot initiative landscape in 2024. These are all seismic and important moments that will shape the future of critical social justice policies.

ohn Legend standing at a podium holding a microphone with a multi-racial group of people behind him holding up signs that read ‘Union Strong. Vote Issue #1.’

There’s good reason to hope. On August 8, 2023, Ohio voters decisively rejected a ballot initiative to raise the threshold for passing future constitutional amendments to 60 percent, rather than 50 percent, through a special election that thwarted a direct attack on democracy by a 14-point margin. This victory for democracy sets up an important pro-abortion constitutional amendment that Ohioans will vote on this November, as well as a potential measure against gerrymandering in November 2024.

Tides Foundation’s Healthy Democracy Fund (HDF) proudly made a $1.875 million grant to the One Person One Vote campaign and a $200,000 grant to Ohio Voice to support their work in defeating the measure on Tuesday. We were the second largest donor to the One Person One Vote campaign. This significant contribution helped support a robust and winning campaign, which included sending canvassers into the field and running digital and TV ads in four media markets. Our significant role in this victory would not have been possible without the financial support of HDF donors.

As pooled funds, HDF and the Tides-led initiatives play a critical role in channeling philanthropic resources where they’re most needed. Throughout the year, we are in constant communication with movement leaders, state-based and local community organizations, national advocacy groups, and national and state-level democracy funders and donor collaboratives. These relationships allow us to support important new opportunities, like the ballot measure in Ohio, and ultimately to facilitate fast and effective grantmaking to organizations that protect voting rights, close the voter turnout gap, and organize communities of color and young people year-round.

A large group of multi-racial and multigenerational community members posing together in a parking lot, holding signs that read ‘No on Issue #1.’

The issues appearing on Ohioans’ ballots in 2023 are a microcosm of the national ballot initiative landscape in 2024. Similar measures to suppress democratic participation are expected in Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, abortion advocates are gearing up for ballot measures in up to 12 states.

Tides Foundation will closely monitor these developments and support campaigns and coalitions that shift power to communities that have been historically denied it. In the meantime, we are thankful for our donor partners who moved critical resources to organizations to make this victory possible. It is a testament to what we can achieve when donors and doers unite to stand up for democracy. 

Learn more about how you can support and unlock the power of communities who are striving to protect democratic participation.

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