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Sep
2015
25

Ohio Anti-Gerrymandering Bill Unites Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO

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Ohio Ballot Issue 1, a plan to create fair redistricting and prevent gerrymandering, is enjoying bipartisan support and even making strange bedfellows in the Buckeye State.  Criss-crossing the state in support of the measure are two former state lawmakers, Republican Matt Huffman (from Lima) and Democrat Vernon Sykes (from Akron), who are the sponsors of the ballot initiative.  So far, the plan has not only enjoyed the backing of both major parties, but has (gasp!) united the Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO.

Other ballot, such as the legalization of marijuana (Issue 3) and the banning of monopolies (Issue 2), are earning more publicity, but Issue 1is slowly gaining support from the masses. The hope is that it will lead to a new generation of Ohio politics that is less partisan and more responsive to the needs of constituents.  

“Ohio is probably known as one of the worst gerrymandering states in the country,” Sykes said.  ‘That means the lines for the legislative district are drawn for the purpose of keeping certain parties in office. They often make little regional sense other than for political power.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer came out in support of Issue 1, providing the following background on gerrymandering, how it has shaped the state’s politics, and how redistricting would change the future:

Today, if a party wins control of two of three key statewide executive offices — governor; state auditor; secretary of state — it gets to draw, or “apportion,” state Senate and Ohio House districts to favor that party’s candidates. That mechanism was devised in the mid-1960s.

Predictably, a Democratic-run Apportionment Board drew General Assembly districts to favor Democratic candidates for the legislature after the 1970 and 1980 censuses. And a Republican-run Apportionment Board drew districts to favor Republican legislative candidates after the 1990, 2000 and 2010 censuses.

Inevitable result: Democrats ran Ohio’s House from 1973 through 1994. And Republicans have run it since 1995, except in 2009 and 2010, when Barack Obama’s coattails helped Democrats elect a House majority.

he state Senate has been GOP-run for 30 consecutive years, seemingly the Ohio record for one-party control of a legislative chamber. What’s more, computer-assisted mapping makes politically tilted district-drawing easier by the day.

Issue 1 passed both the House and Senate on near unanimous votes and now goes before the voters for final approval.  If passed, redistricting would be handled by a seven-member bipartisan board made up of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, and four more members (two per major party) appointed by legislative leaders.  Proposed General Assembly districts would need to win the approval of at least two redistricting commissioners from each major party to be in place for 10 years.  Otherwise, the districts would be in place for a total of four years by which time the board could have changed through elections.  The amendment would apply to state districts but would not redraw U.S. congressional districts, which the Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board argues fixes “only half of the problem.”

The League of Women Voters notes that gerrymandering is the main reason Ohio remains ensared in partisanship despite being considered the bellwether of presidential elections.  From their editorial in support of Issue 1:

Ohio is widely considered to be the ultimate swing state. Ohio voters have picked the winning U.S. Presidential candidate every year since 1964, routinely switching parties. So how can a state that is evenly split between supporting Democrats and Republicans have an elected legislature made up overwhelmingly by one party? The answer is gerrymandering.

Predictable Results: A Report from the League of Women Voters of Ohio Comparing 2011 Gerrymandering to the 2012 and 2014 Election Results concluded that Ohio’s legislative districts are rigged to yield completely predictable results. Voters can predict with 97 percent to 100 percent accuracy which party will win every single legislative race in the state, because the districts are that rigged.

In fact, the party that drew the maps received 57 percent of the total votes statewide for Congress but managed to win 75 percent of the Congressional seats by packing the opposing party into as few seats as possible.

Ohio may be a swing state in picking a president, but the maps guarantee no swing in the legislature.

The amendment would not go into effect until 2021 when the next round of redistricting would occur following the next census.  

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One Comment on “Ohio Anti-Gerrymandering Bill Unites Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO”

  1. For more information on Issue 1, visit yesforissue1.org

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