Ohio became the second state to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment that would give the District of Columbia full voting representation in Congress when the Ohio House of Representatives approved the proposal yesterday.
Ohio thus joined New Jersey as the only states so far to have ratified the proposal. It must be approved by 38 state legislatures within seven years of its passage by the U.S. Senate last August if it is to become the 27th or 28th Amendment (depending on the outcome of the ERA proposal) to the U.S. Constitution.
The action in Columbus renewed the optimism of supporters here, who had seen similar efforts rejected or stalled this fall in Pennsylvania, Delaware and California.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy and other leaders of Self-Determination for D.C., the coalition that is directing the nationwide ratification effort, said the Ohio vote, and a first-step victory in Michigan a day earlier, should renew the momentum that was blunted by the defeat of the proposal in Pennsylvania earlier this month.
The vote in the Ohio House yesterday was 51 to 37, just one more than the minimum needed for passage.
"The margin had us holding our breath," said Richard W. Clark, the Common Cause lobbyist who is executive coordinator of the coalition.
Fauntroy, whose title with the coalition is convenor, said he remains "cautiously optimistic" about the drive. But he added that the coalition "has not yet developed the kind of organization necessary to get it through."
While Fauntroy said he was "grateful to the bipartisan leadership" of the Ohio legislature, the voting tally showed the measure received virtually no Republican support in either chamber there.
Of the 51 yes votes yesterday, only two came from the 37 Republicans in the House.When the Ohio Senate approved it by a vote of 19 to 11 Wednesday, only one of the Senate's 12 GOP members voted with the Democratic majority.
Fauntroy conceded that those statistics "suggest that considerable work needs to be done to move Republicans to rise above party." Republicans played major roles as the measure went through Congress.
Clark singled out for praise one GOP legislator, Rep. Charles Rockwell (Rocky) Saxbe of Mechanicsburg, who argued against Republican opponents during the nearly two hours of debate yesterday.
Saxbe, son of former U.S. Sen. William Saxbe, told his GOP colleagues that while he was concerned about the speed with which the matter was coming to a vote, he would vote for it because of the "overriding equity" of giving "all U.S. citizens the right to participate in representative government."
The yes votes of Saxbe and Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Findlay) were crucial to passage, as a number of Democrats who were present did not vote when the roll was called.