The Dispatch discussed the need to update the redistricting process today:
Issue 2 is dead, buried deep by Ohio voters last week.
But over and over again, opponents of the redistricting plan, be they Republicans or editorial-page writers, noted that their opposition was not based on the belief that the current system of drawing legislative and congressional districts is good.
In fact, most acknowledged that it remains badly in need of an overhaul.
Among them is Secretary of State Jon Husted, who for years as a state legislator and now as the state’s chief elections official has pushed to change the process, in which the majority party gerrymanders districts to its benefit, often creating a host of uncompetitive seats. Husted strongly opposed Issue 2 as a flawed alternative, but he argues that something must be done.
The Toledo Blade discusses some negative effects of gerrymandering and why we need redistricting reform:
Democrat Barack Obama won Ohio by more than 100,000 votes over Republican Mitt Romney. Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown defeated Republican Josh Mandel by more than 250,000 votes. Yet GOP candidates won 12 of Ohio’s 16 U.S. House races. Republicans also have a large majority in the state House and a more than 2-to-1 advantage in the state Senate.
In a state as evenly divided politically as Ohio, that should not happen. But it did, because Republicans in charge of redrawing the congressional and legislative districts packed as many Democrats as they could into as few districts as possible to create the maximum number of safe Republican seats and ensure a GOP majority in Congress and the General Assembly.
In the same election, Ohio voters soundly defeated a constitutional amendment that would have removed the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional and legislative boundaries from partisan political hands and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan panel.
Republicans played a part in that defeat by spreading false claims about how members of the panel would be chosen and how big their budget would be.
Voters First Friends,
Thank you for your hard work on Issue 2. Despite our loss, I am so proud that we challenged a system that manipulates the vote. I am so glad that we were able to work together on a campaign focused on fairness and improving the system. Issue 2 should be looked at as one of the steps on the road to reform. Like many of you I am tired this morning. However, I become so energized and encouraged when I think about how many groups and individuals came together to fight for a better system.
Voters on the right and the left, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens and Independents were able to see the district lines for what they are because we were able to put the spotlight on how rigged the system is.
Last night, all 16 Congressional districts were won by the party that the district favored. In every Ohio Senate districts on the ballot, the election was won by the party that the district was tilted towards. And in 97 of the 99 Ohio House districts, the election was won by the party the district favored.
Jim Slagle, who managed the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting in 2011, described Election 2012 this way, “We spent millions on election campaigns, had a charade of voters going to the polls, yet in 131 out 133 Congress, State Senate, and Ohio House elections, all we need to do was look at the political indexes we identified last fall when the lines were drawn.”
So now we must keep moving forward. We need to keep pushing. Opponents to Issue 2 picked apart our proposal, but no one defended the current system. Now we need to reach out to policy-makers and organizations that opposed Issue 2 and work together on developing a consensus on reform.
Last night Peg Rosenfield of the League of Women Voters of Ohio sent an inspiring email which included this phrase, “I would remind you that it took over 80 years to get women the vote. We may have lost today, but we are the inheritors of a tradition of relentlessness.”
Be on the lookout for an invitation to a post-election debriefing and strategy session. 2013 is just around the corner and the Constitutional Modernization Commission provides an avenue for reform.
Once again, thank you for your hard work! It was amazing to see folks all over Ohio working to educate voters. 2012′s Issue 2 is just one chapter of redistricting reform and I look forward to working with you all as we continue to put push for a more just and fair system.
PD LTE: Issue 2: Our best hope for representative government, one that includes a voice for independents
The Plain Dealer published a great letter to the editor in support of Issue 2 yesterday:
One problem with the present redistricting process is that it leaves Ohio independents with little or no voice in government unless we happen to live in an area that has been coincidentally gerrymandered in alignment with our interests or principles. To address this problem, the redistricting process presented in Issue 2 creates positions on a citizen commission for members who are not politically aligned. This will, for the first time, give an influential voice to independents and provide an opportunity to elect those ho would otherwise be shut out of the process. This is a precedent-setting benefit that no political party is likely to provide since it challenges their priority for self-preservation.
Some who argue against Issue 2 are concerned that the citizen commission is not directly accountable to voters, and therefore the process should remain with the secretary of state. However, I do not recall a single secretary of state in the last 50 years that has executed the redistricting process in a way that benefits the entire citizenry rather than just their party, and I do not believe that it is reasonable to think that some future secretary of state will act differently than their predecessors if they expect to remain in office.
Issue 2 may not be perfect, but both parties have handled the redistricting process so poorly that whatever the citizen commission comes up with will surely be better for the electorate. At the very least, officeholders would have to respond to a broader range of constituents if they hope to get re-elected. This will set the stage for compromise and stimulate the process of getting things done, a significant benefit that the current system cannot provide. I hope that all voters, regardless of their political alignment, vote for Issue 2 and help to bring about this change for the betterment of Ohio.
Noting that this year’s ballot is unusually long, supporters of a YES vote on Issue 2 urged voters to consider the entire ballot and not short change the myriad of local issues they will confront.
Several people who voted early complained that the Issue 2 language is so cumbersome and they had a hard time finding the local issues, said Voters First Chair Catherine Turcer.
“Local issues should not be short-changed because the Ohio Ballot Board did not do its job,” Turcer said.
The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the ballot board to re-write the Issue 2 language because it was misleading. Turcer said the board responded by drafting language that is intentionally cumbersome and takes up two to three pages.
“The career politicians are so desperate to hold on to their power, they are trying to frighten people into opposing Issue 2,” said constitutional law expert Dan Tokaji, co-author of Issue 2. “First they tried to mislead voters. Now they are trying to scare them. By voting YES on Issue 2, voters can stand up to the partisan politicians’ tricks and give all of Ohio citizens a treat.”
Across the state, voters will be asked to decide on 371 levies for police, firefighters and other first responders; 194 school levies; 16 issues to provide or continue programs for seniors; and other issues for road and bridge repair, libraries, cemeteries, and children’s services. Local issues appear on the ballot after the two statewide issues. A full list of these issues can be found here.
Bentley Davis, state chair of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said she fears that a Franklin County senior levy – on the ballot as Issue 56 – will get lost.
County officials said the secretary of state’s office changed the title so it does not tell voters that Issue 56 is the ‘Franklin County Senior Options Levy.’
“Please read the ballot language,” Davis said. “This levy and senior issues in other counties, provide a lifeline for many seniors and helps them stay in their homes by providing everything from home-delivered meals to transportation.”
At a Cincinnati news conference, fire fighter Doug Stern echoed Davis’ concerns about local issues.
“There are two fire protection levies in Hamilton County and levies to help safety forces in other communities as well,” Stern said “These levies may be near the bottom of the ballot but that does not diminish their importance. You have taken the time to go vote, be sure to take those few extra moments to vote for every issue … all the way down the ballot.”
There are an unbelievable number of levies being voted on around the state this year, largely due to budget cuts. Click the link below to view a list by county:
The Ohio Environmental Council, The Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, Environmental Health Watch, and other environmental organizations have joined together to endorse a YES vote on Issue 2. The groups made it clear that their support for Issue 2 is based on the fact that Ohio’s current system for drawing congressional and legislative district is broken and that it must be reformed if we want to move Ohio forward with balanced public policies that will address concerns like clean water and air, and protect the health and safety of Ohioans.
“Issue 2 will lead toward more balanced public policies. It is a step in the right direction for solving the broken hyper-partisan system we are all fed up with in Columbus and Washington,” said Jed Thorp, Manager of the Sierra Club’s Ohio Chapter. “With Issue 2, our public officials can finally start addressing the major issues facing Ohioans, rather than pursuing divisive politics for political advantage.”
Last year, the League of Women Voters and over 25 other groups published a report, which exposed how congressional and state legislative districts were rigged behind closed doors, in a secret Columbus hotel room, by politicians and their cronies. The report uncovered rampant corruption and a concerted strategy to obstruct public transparency in order to guarantee one-party rule over Ohio’s congressional and legislative seats for the next ten years.
“Ohio’s current system of drawing district lines is unfair, broken and must be fixed,” said Michael Piepsny, Executive Director of Environmental Health Watch. “Fair and balanced districts create fair and balanced government which will allow the voters to be heard. Vote YES on Issue 2 and take control of redistricting out of the politician’s hands and place it in the hands of the people.”
Recent filings by Issue 2 opponents show huge support from special interests that include oil and gas lobbying groups, utility companies and natural gas “fracking” companies. Together, these regulated industries have contributed some $1.4 million to defeat Issue 2.
“We need to keep our politicians honest so that the industries that they regulate are balanced with the interest of everyday Ohioans,” said Mr. Piepsny. “If politicians are guaranteed election through unfair districts, they become beholden to special interests at the expense of the voters.”
“Without districts that represent the voters of Ohio, it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to address issues around renewable energy, clean air, clean water, and energy independence,” said Mr. Thorp.
“Issue 2 will create more compact, community-based districts, affording more honest conversation around environmental-conservation policies,” said Keith Dimoff, Executive Director of the Ohio Environmental Council.
The Issue 2 redistricting reform effort is led by the Ohio League of Women Voters and was developed in partnership with good-government groups like Common Cause and Ohio Citizen Action.
Dear Fellow Ohioan,
It is my pleasure to share information with you regarding a very important matter on the ballot this election. Issue 2, developed by The League of Women Voters and other good government groups will reform our corrupt redistricting process and restore the people’s voice, vote, and power.
There is no question that restoring integrity and fairness to our redistricting process will lead to better results in the Ohio Statehouse and Washington, D.C. on matters that impact healthcare and those receiving home care and hospice services.
Issue 2 is a common sense reform that will restore balance, transparency and accountability to the system, and safeguard against either party unfairly dominating state politics.
Currently, politicians draw the districts that they run in. Unfortunately, this system leads to situations where politicians put their own re-election ahead of the constituents they represent. This makes no sense and should not be tolerated. We need a set of understandable, common sense rules that require fair representation by both parties with citizen input. It’s up to us to fix the system. The politicians will not fix the problem, because they are the problem.
This election you will have an opportunity to take a stand against career politicians who are more concerned with protecting their own power than working to find solutions to move our state and country forward.
A YES on ISSUE 2 will restore balance of power and help move Ohio forward in a way we can all be proud of.
Former Director, Ohio Department of Aging
Ohio League of Women Voters, since 1957
The Youngstown Vindicator is the latest newspaper to support a YES on 2 vote. They write:
Ohio is clearly the most purple of states, shifting from red to blue one election and back again the next. And presidential elections are almost traditionally toss-ups between the Democrat and the Republican.
And yet, unless Issue 2 passes, Ohio’s congressional districts will be dramatically tilted for the next decade toward Republicans, thanks to a blatantly partisan redistricting process and the GOP’s luck in controlling the General Assembly. We say luck, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Republicans have been fortunate enough to have had control of the General Assembly and most statewide offices at just the right time — in 2002 and 2010 — which has allowed them to draw both congressional and General Assembly boundaries that have worked to their advantage.
Restoring balance to Ohio’s redistricting process outweighs whatever shortcomings Issue 2 may have. The Vindicator urges a yes vote on Issue 2.
David Robinson and Colleen Ogle penned the following letter, with others signing on, to urge faith leaders to support Issue 2. They write:
I’m writing to you, the leader of your church, about a matter of conscience and the civil covenant we hold with one another. I’m writing to you today because this covenant is in jeopardy.
As I see it, the glory and the burden of being an American lies in the measured exercise of conscience. We are free to worship, believe, speak, and assemble as we choose. Thank God—and the millions who have sacrificed to make it so.
In the public realm, our conscience is most poignantly expressed in the privacy of the voting booth. It is there, in each of our votes, that our belief in the wisdom of the people—the “consent of the governed”—as the basis of a just government is made real. It is the vote that seals this covenant of a self-governing people.
In Ohio, this covenant has been violated. Yes, I know this is strong language, but it is regrettably true. Let me explain.
Following the 2010 census, politicians “gerrymandered” our legislative districts, in a most extreme fashion, such that incumbents no longer need worry about “the consent of the governed” (similar efforts nationwide have resulted in incumbent re-election rates of 95+%). By manipulating the map, squeezing and stretching voters into unnatural and contorted boundaries, they in effect chose who their voters would be ahead of time, turning on its head the most basic of democratic principles. Our government, in a very practical sense, is no longer ours, but has become theirs. This is what I mean by saying our civil covenant has been violated.
We are all aware of the sour fruits of this system: extreme partisanship, infantile gridlock, the rule of money, and the money-changers behind it all.
Fortunately, we have a rare opportunity this November, through Issue 2, to heal our electoral system. By putting voters first, we will restore our basic civil covenant. Issue 2, supported by the Ohio Council of Churches, The League of Women Voters, and other good-government groups, will create a twelve person Citizens’ Commission, operating fully in the light of day, transparent, for all to see, charged with the profound responsibility of determining legislative boundaries every ten years. Strict criteria of fairness, competitiveness, and community wholeness, will structure and regulate their deliberations and judgments. Details of Issue 2 can be found at www.votersfirstohio.com.
Predictably, those currently in power are trying to confuse and distort the basic issue at hand. This wailing of the powerful, when their power is threatened, is not surprising—their social status, lifestyles, livelihoods, and political egos are all at stake. And through their willingness to participate in the act of gerrymandering they have already demonstrated their inability to resist the temptation of power over principle. This charge applies to politicians of both parties, over many years, during many efforts to introduce fairness and transparency to the system. And that is why we, the people, must intervene. They cannot, despite their protestations, do it themselves.
And so I ask that you, as leader of your congregation, take whatever opportunities are appropriate and possible to make these issues visible to your members and to urge them to vote Yes on Issue 2 this November. By passing this vital amendment, our civil covenant will be restored and the voice of individual conscience will, through the vote, be given force once again.
Thank you very much for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.
David Robinson, Chicago Theological Seminary, M.A., 1991; Emory University, Ph.D., 2002
Rev. Colleen Ogle, Methodist Theological School, M.T.S., 1985; M.Div., 1987
Rev. Karen Muntzing, Methodist Theological School, M.Div., 2004
Rev. Deborah Stoker Stevens, United Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1995
Rev. David W. Meredith, United Methodist, Saint Paul School of Theology, M. Div., 1984
Rev. Anna Guillozet, Methodist Theological School, M. Div., 2011
Rev. James Waugh, United Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1975
Rev. Daniel Kiger, Harvard Divinity School, M. Div., 1972
Rev. Timothy Ahrens, Sr. Minister First Congregational Church, M. Div., Yale Divinity School, 1985
Rev. Mark Diemer, ELCA pastor, M.Div., Trinity Lutheran Seminary, 1987
Rev. Michele Holloway, Methodist Theological School, M. Div., 2011
The following statement can be attributed to Voters First spokeswoman Sandy Theis:
“The list of backers of an anti-reform ballot measure reads like a Who’s Who of Ohio special interests. The list is dominated by utilities and other regulated industries dependent on their cozy relationship with the politicians in power. They will stop at nothing to work together to protect themselves, at the expense of regular Ohioans.”
“A YES vote on Issue 2 is a vote to transfer power from politicians and special interests to voters by no longer letting politicians design their own districts to benefit themselves.”
Dayton Daily News writes about our new website, www.ohiovotemap.com:
Backers of State Issue 2 are hoping a new website will convince Ohioans to vote yes on the constitutional amendment to change Ohio’s redistricting process.
Voters First unveiled the new site , www.ohiovotemap.com, on Tuesday, as a way for voters to learn more about the current redistricting process and why it needs improvement. At the top of the web page is a quote from former Republican state lawmaker Jeff Jacobson saying, “Redistricting is the most fun anyone could ever have in politics and not go to prison.”
A map of Ohio’s new congressional districts follows, with blurbs highlighting oddly-shaped districts.
Brian Rothenberg, executive director of left-leaning Progress Ohio, said the map shows how “ridiculous” the current process is.
It’s shocking – but not surprising. One Columbus politician responsible for the rigged redistricting system actually called the unfair process “the most fun anyone could have in politics and not go to prison.”
We even have video!
Want to see what this “fun” did to Ohio? Check out our new website, www.ohiovotemap.com, which shows just how much “fun” the politicians had. If ever there were a perfect demonstration of why we need to stop the politicians from continuing to rig the system to benefit themselves and their friends, this is it.
Check out the map below (or on our new site) to see what gerrymandering has done to your district:
The Portage County News-Leader urges a YES on 2 vote:
While the reapportionment pencil was in the hands of Republicans last year, Democrats have shown similar partisanship when they have been in control of the map.
State Issue 2 would take the map-drawing pencil out of the hands of politicians and give it to an independent, state-funded commission composed of an equal number of Republicans, Democrats and political independents.
They would be charged with drawing congressional and legislative districts that would be geographically compact, maintain county and municipal boundaries and be politically competitive. And they would have to do their work in public.
The Aurora Advocate has endorsed Issue 2. In their closing, they write:
…We believe Issue 2 would bring reform to a system that is rigged in favor of politicians at the expense of the public.
We doubt if any map that the apportionment commission comes up with could be worse than the one crafted in a Columbus hotel room and shoved through the Legislature last year.
If Issue 2 passes, Ohio voters would see new congressional and legislative districts when they go to the polls in 2014. Those districts, by law, would have to be compact and fairly drawn.
And so-called “safe” districts, which do a great deal toward perpetuating incumbency, no longer would be politically untouchable.
Ohioans stand to gain a great deal if this reform measure passes, regardless of its imperfections. We urge a “Yes” vote on state Issue 2.
The Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune has endorsed a YES on Issue 2 vote. From their endorsement:
Opponents of Issue 2, a proposal to change the procedure for redrawing Ohio’s legislative districts, argue the plan is imperfect. But neither is the current arrangement for drafting legislative boundaries. Just look at the new districts crafted after the most recent census, and that is obvious.
Opponents complain the procedure for selecting that commission would be complex and involve some members of the judiciary, potentially politicizing that branch of government. But the winnowing process is straightforward, and judges – not entirely apolitical now – already are involved in selecting members of other boards.
We believe Issue 2 would create an approach to redistricting that would be an improvement over the system now in place, and result in legislative districts that are fairer and more compact. We urge voters to approve the constitutional amendment.
Voters First has released its first television ad of the election. The ad can be seen here.
The ad emphasizes the importance of giving redistricting power back to the citizens of Ohio, instead of the politicians and lobbyists who abuse it. The advertisement was filmed at the 49er Diner in Cleveland’s Slavic Village.
“The campaign in support of Issue 2 is ramping up its efforts as most voters are now paying attention. We know that this race is tightening and that voters are beginning to respond to Voters First’s message of reform,” said Sandy Theis, spokeswoman for Voters First.
The Huffington Post recently named Issue 2 one of the “Ten Ballot Measures To Watch In The 2012 Election (link),” leading to broader exposure.
Theis said, “The people of Ohio have had enough. This campaign is aggressively spreading the message of common sense reform and the citizens have taken notice. We won’t let the politicians and lobbyists take away our voice or our vote any longer. That’s why we’re voting YES on issue 2.”
Watch our first YES on Issue 2 TV ad!