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Poll: Columbus Underground Readers In Favor of City Council Wards

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Poll: Columbus Underground Readers In Favor of City Council Wards
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Last week, to gauge the city’s acceptance of Issue 1 — the ballot measure introduced by grassroots group Represent Columbus to add ward representation to City Council — Columbus Underground posted a poll asking how and why people were planning to vote during the Aug 2 special election.

Out of the people who took the poll, 57.9 percent came out in support of Issue 1, 35.7 percent were opposed, 5.5 percent were undecided, and less than one percent stated that they don’t plan to vote.

Of those who vote in favor of wards, the reasons were split. Approximately 40 percent said they feel their neighborhood needs more representation; 40 percent more said they believe the current council is corrupted or negatively influenced by corporate interests, and another ten percent said it is simply time to change things up. Those who selected “Other” for why they supported Issue 1 were likely to say “All of the above” as their answer.

Among “No” voters, approximately 41 percent said they like council the way it is, while another 41 percent said they like the idea of ward representation, but Issue 1 isn’t the right proposal, and 10.2 percent said they don’t completely understand the issue.

The sample size of the survey clocked in at just under 0.9 percent of the daily Columbus Underground readership, which may indicate a larger trend of voter apathy on the issue. With Issue 1 being the sole issue that Columbus voters will see on the special August 2 ballot, voter turnout is expected to be much lower than during the general election on November 8.

At the end of the survey was an option to submit any questions that readers had about the issue. A commonality among “Yes” and “No” voters was a lingering confusion surrounding issue specifics, such as which group promotes or opposes the measure, how the proposal compares with council models from other cities, and what exactly wards will look like.

Who are these groups fighting on either side of Issue 1?

Represent Columbus and One Columbus represent the “Yes” and “No” votes on Issue 1. Represent Columbus, made up of local progressives and a handful of Republicans, developed the charter amendment that would add ward representation to Columbus City Council. One Columbus, comprised of members of City Council and affiliates formed in response to Represent Columbus to encourage a “No” vote on August 2.

Represent believes current council is outdated and out of touch. One believes ward representation is the wrong solution to these problems, claiming the new structure would pit neighbors against neighbors and add unnecessary expense. 

How does this proposal compare with other Cities’ councils?

Many cities in the states have ward representation on council. In fact, other than Portland and Columbus, all of our largest cities either have districts or a hybrid of at-large and district seats. In cities comparable to Columbus in population (822,553), like San Francisco (837,442), Charlotte (792,862) and Austin (885,400), things vary. San Francisco and Austin have no at-large seats while Charlotte includes seven district positions and four at-large. Generally speaking, most of these councils have anywhere from six to 50 wards, along with a handful of additional at-large seats.

What are the wards going to look like?

While there’s no way to know exactly where the lines will be drawn, the amendment does provide some information on the nature of the wards and who will create them. Should Issue 1 pass on August 2, a set number of districts will be created based on the city’s population.

Because Columbus has between 750,000 and 900,000 people, 10 districts are recommended. The 10 neighborhoods are to be divided evenly based on population; the largest districts can’t exceed the population of the smallest by more than five percent. Once 900,000 is passed, two more members (and districts) will be added. By 2040, when the population is projected to reach 1.3 million, council will have 16 ward representatives.

Ward representatives will lead “compact, contiguous districts,” whose “borders shall follow street lines, recognized waterways and geographic boundaries, and Columbus communities and neighborhoods.”

“Districting master(s)” will have the responsibility of drawing these borders. One or several of a nine-member appointed apportionment committee will submit three versions of apportionment to the remaining members of the committee who will develop, approve or change the map and make it publicly available. After public comment, the committee will have a month to revise and submit a final apportionment plan.

Three committee members are appointed each by the Mayor, the Council, and the six members that the Mayor and Council appoint. Three will come from the majority party, three from the minority party and three unaffiliated.

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