We can rid Ohio of gerrymandering

Gerrymandering, the reshaping of voting districts to unfairly favor one party, is an obstacle to fair representation for Ohio citizens. Our state is alarmingly gerrymandered. Nearly every voting district has been warped by the legislature’s majority to make the election uncompetitive or a race uncontested. While both parties have been guilty of this practice, in recent years the district maps have largely favored Republicans, allowing them to be unresponsive to constituents because the seat held is secure no matter what. Gerrymandering is cheating the voters in the southeast Ohio counties of Athens, Hocking, Jackson, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton and Washington — all over our part of the state.

The techniques used to make unfair district maps are known as “cracking” and “packing.” In cracking, the controlling party draws a map that divides a community of voters known to favor the opposing party by mapping portions of that community into different districts, thereby weakening its voting power. Athens County communities have been cracked. In packing, the dominant party combines communities that usually vote against them into one district, even if their areas are not adjacent; a fictitious line down a highway median can be made to connect them, for instance. Republicans have especially benefitted from cracking and packing since 2015, now controlling larger segments of the state house and senate than their portions of the voting public warrant.

A proposition on the ballot in November, Citizens Not Politicians will create a commission to redraw the voting districts fairly, so that the vote you cast will count. Districts will no longer be uncompetitive. The amendment to the state constitution will create a 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission, composed of Democrat, Republican and Independent voters who are not lobbyists or politicians, from different regions of Ohio, to draw impartial districts. It would become unconstitutional for the maps to favor any political party or politician. The signature drive for this issue is successfully finished. Now we have to pass this ballot measure.

Ohio voters were promised fair redistricting before. We voted for redrawn district maps in 2015, trusting the legislature to enact the clear will of the people. The Republican-led legislature and its Ohio Redistricting Commission, however, took several years to draw unacceptable partisan-based maps one after another. It ignored Ohio Supreme Court rulings rejecting the bad maps and dragged the process out until there was no time left to have fair maps approved before the 2024 general election.

This time we’ll get it right. Two retired judges, one Democrat and one Republican, will facilitate efficient and even-handed work by the voter-paneled commission that the Citizens Not Politicians initiative calls for. We need not only to vote Yes on this measure but also encourage our family, friends, and co-workers to do so. Fair Districts Ohio (fairdistrictsohio.org) can use activists in the get out the vote effort. You can also contact the ACLU or the Democratic Party to volunteer.

Remember that just last November, we voted to change our state constitution to protect reproductive rights. Change toward fairness is possible, even against a force as obstinate as gerrymandering.

Read the original here.