Abortion amendment fails in Kentucky; bail reform passes in Ohio
Democrats’ hopes that abortion could motivate turnout in their favor appears to have been well founded.
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Voters in Ohio and Kentucky decided Tuesday on two statewide ballot issues that promised fundamental changes to abortion access and criminal justice procedures for Tri-State residents.
Abortion in Kentucky
Kentucky voters chose against changing the state constitution to vest in the legislature the power to regulate abortion.
Issue 2 appeared late Tuesday to fail by an eight point margin, though around 16 percent of the votes have yet to be counted.
The commonwealth had an abortion ban triggered into effect immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. That ban is currently stayed as a challenge plays out against it on constitutional grounds. The case is currently with the Kentucky Supreme Court. A hearing is scheduled for after the election.
The amendment would have rendered that case moot, giving legislators final say on whether abortion is protected under state law.
As currently constituted, Kentucky’s legislative bodies would likely have enshrined the abortion law statutorily.
Republicans have held legislative supermajorities in each chamber for two years, with 75 of 100 seats in the House and 30 of 38 in the Senate. New redistricting maps figured to increase those advantages.
Biden carried just 19 of the House districts in 2020, none outside Jefferson and Fayette counties, both urban centers, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
Coming into the election, Democrats hoped the abortion issue could motivate turnout in their favor, particularly in a state where it explicitly hung in the balance. Their hopes appear to be well founded.
Bail Reform in Ohio
Ohio judges, with the passage of Issue 1, will now be permitted to consider public safety when setting monetary bail amounts for those facing criminal charges.
By way of background, the Ohio constitution grants judges the ability to set bails comprising any type, amount or conditions, but it prohibits excessive bail.
Judges setting bail can consider the nature and circumstances of the crime, per Ohio criminal code. They are also required to consider factors specific to the accused person, including the weight of evidence and the defendant’s financial resources, according to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Ohio Constitution triggers automatic detention without bail for defendants charged with capital offenses. A detention hearing is required to hold a defendant without bail when charged with a specific set of other offenses.
The burden is on the prosecutor sufficiently to demonstrate that the defendant committed the crime and poses a substantial risk to public safety and that no release conditions can reasonably protect the community.
Otherwise, the Court has ruled judges cannot set unreasonably high bail amounts that “everyone knows the defendant cannot afford” and that are “tantamount to a denial of bail[...]”
Says the Court, “The sole purpose of bail is to ensure a person’s attendance in court.” And elsewhere: “Bail is excessive when it is higher than is reasonably necessary to serve the government’s interest in ensuring the accused’s appearance at trial.”
To be clear, according to Ohio code, judges can consider public safety—”the protection or safety of any person or the community”—when determining bail conditions such as travel restrictions, but monetary bail “shall be related to the defendant’s risk of nonappearance, the seriousness of the offense [and] the previous criminal record of the defendant[...]”
Ohio Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) said earlier this year the amendment would pave an unnecessary shortcut for lazy prosecutors to deny defendants due process.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost were among the amendment’s most ardent supporters.
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