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Activists Petition for Ballot Initiative to End Gerrymandering

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Activists Petition for Ballot Initiative to End GerrymanderingPhoto via Fair Districts = Fair Elections Facebook page.
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A statewide coalition of more than 30 activist groups is leading the charge against gerrymandering, the practice of manipulating district lines so as to favor one party over another. Fair Districts = Fair Elections is collecting signatures for their petition to create a ballot initiative addressing unfair congressional redistricting in Ohio.

The effort follows a similar measure that voters overwhelmingly supported in 2015 (Issue 1), which will change the process of drawing state legislative districts in 2021 — the next redrawing year. The new initiative will address congressional districts, aiming to restrict the packing of certain party supporters into dense districts, or cracking them into separate districts to limit their influence.

Here in Ohio, redistricting reform advocates Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting (OCAR) and Fair Districts = Fair Elections accuse Republicans of creating a congressional plan providing a 12-to-4 Republican advantage and a state legislative plan which would ensure their control of the legislature even if there were a strong Democratic year.

A map of Ohio’s congressional districts. District 9 is often referred to as the “snake by the lake,” and is connected only by a bridge at one point.

The state joins a national issue in its pursuit of fair districting. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Wisconsin case and determine whether “gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted.”

In the 2020 election, this would impact Republicans especially, “who control the process in the majority of states,” the Post reports.

According to the article, Wisconsin Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote in 2011, yet managed to capture a 60-to-39 seat advantage in the State Assembly.

Some Wisconsin legislative leaders object to the notion of transferring the constitutionally assigned task of district drawing from legislators to “federal judges and opportunistic plaintiffs.” Others welcomed the opportunity to see the results of the case, with former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) declaring confidence in the justices to see “how pervasive and damaging this practice has become” and consequently “adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

A fair map would feature “compactness, competitiveness, representational fairness (not favoring one political party over another and mapmaking that reflect the partisan makeup of Ohio as a whole), and respect for county and municipal boundaries,” according to OCAR. They posit that such a system would offer transparency and encourage public input.

To get the initiative on the ballot, ProgressOhio, part of the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition, announced the start of the petition process, aiming to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures.

For more information, visit fairdistrictsohio.org.


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