Students sign-in to cast their ballots on Nov. 6 in the Ohio Union. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo Editor

State Issue 1, a proposed state constitutional amendment to reduce penalties for low-level drug offenders, is projected to emphatically lose in Tuesday’s midterm election. With 54.87 percent of precincts reporting, 65.08 percent of voters have rejected the proposal while only 34.92 percent have supported it.

The Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment was a proposed initiated state constitutional amendment that would eliminate fourth- or fifth-degree felony charges on people convicted for using illegal drugs. Instead, convicted users or owners of drugs would face a misdemeanor charge, only punishable by up to six months.

Moritz College of Law professor Douglas Berman said he was not surprised to see Issue 1 lose in the election largely because of how Ohio’s track record in passing criminal justice reform.

“Ohio tends to be a follower rather than a leader when it comes to criminal justice reforms,” Berman said. “I was somewhat surprised it lost by such a large margin, and I suspect that reflects the fact that many who may have been supportive of the ideas driving Issue 1 were concerned about a constitutional amendment as the means of reform.”

Supporters of Issue 1 say that it will help reduce incarceration rates and lessen the punishment for people charged of low-level drug crimes. Opponents said Issue 1 would make Ohio among the most lenient states on drugs, reducing incentives for drug offenders to avoid drugs.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray has been a vocal supporter of the proposed amendment while Republican gubernatorial candidate and state attorney general Mike DeWine has been opposed to it. Ohio Governor John Kasich also has opposed the legislation.