Skewed maps show why Ohio voters must seize rights from power hungry politicians

We vote for our legislative representatives, but the reality is, they select the voters who put them in office. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

A group called Citizens Not Politicians is poised to bring real change to how state and congressional legislative districts are drawn in Ohio. Before explaining what’s coming, let’s take stock of where we are.

Gerrymandering — drawing statehouse and congressional maps to favor one party over the other—is done with great precision, to the point voters are deprived of meaningful choices. The process involves a variety of tactics, like “packing,” “cracking,” “kidnapping” and “hijacking” to maintain a party’s majority.   

Too often, the party in power–whether Democrat or Republican–draws districts maps so as to protect its incumbents, no matter how ineffective an incumbent might be.

What matters is maintaining power.

As a consequence, to win an election many candidates need only win the primary; the candidate from the opposing party often has no chance of winning in the general election because of the skewed maps.

Ohioans made their will clear

Ohioans voted twice to amend the state Constitution and bring fairness to the system. In 2015, a redistricting commission, composed of seven elected officials, was created, along with a new process for drawing state legislative maps. In 2018, the process of drawing congressional maps was reformed.

It’s bad no matter which party does it.Democrats rigged Ohio before GOP came on scene.

Despite the clear mandate from voters to end gerrymandering, politicians disregarded the two amendments. Between September 2021 and April 2022, the redistricting commission drew five Statehouse maps for the House and Senate. Political considerations, not fairness, drove the process. Each map was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

You would think the commission would have gotten the message after the first or, maybe, the second set of maps was held to be unconstitutional. But no, the politicians blew off the Ohio Supreme Court.

No surprise, the General Assembly and then the commission drew two congressional maps that were also held to be unconstitutional.

What we learned is that the amendments passed by voters were insufficient.

The language in the amendments—the commission “shall attempt to draw” proportionate maps and no plan shall “unduly” favor or disfavor a political party—was not precise enough. The drafters apparently envisioned the commission would act in good faith and abide by what 70 percent of Ohioans wanted when approving the amendments: fairly drawn maps.

Sad, sober reality:Allison Russo on why Democrats had no option but to support bogus maps

Here’s what is galling: after the first state maps were drawn, commission members, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and Gov. Mike DeWine, both Republicans., suggested the maps were not constitutional but still voted for them—and then voted for multiple subsequent unconstitutional maps.

This isn’t just a Republican problem.

When given the chance, Democrats have historically skewed the maps to their own advantage. 

Now that we’re saddled with unconstitutional maps, DeWine has admitted the process “doesn’t work very well” and favors making a change.

Big change is coming

Assuming enough signatures are obtained by this July, a constitutional amendment to reform redistricting and gerrymandering will be on this November’s ballot. The change will be significant: the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment will create a 15-member citizens redistricting commission, to be composed equally of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Current or recent office holders, individuals with strong political ties and lobbyists will be prohibited from being members of the commission.

The amendment will require that maps be drawn in an open and independent process and not favor any one party over another and includes a series of additional safeguards to ensure that the redistricting process is fair.

You can expect some politicians and special interests to oppose this amendment. They like the status quo that keeps political insiders in power—at the expense of the interests of Ohio citizens.

Read more here.