Everyday People Again Seeks Ballot Issue to Amend At-large Council
Citizen ballot issue committee Everyday People for Positive Change has announced that it has submitted a pre-circulation petition to the city clerk for a proposed ballot issue to reform City Council. The charter amendment has been proposed in response to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s claim that the current council make-up violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibition against “minority voter dilution,” an issue raised to Columbus leaders in 2017.
The proposed charter amendment would:
- Create a nine-member council effective January 2020 (2021 elections)
- Require each member to live in one of nine outlined districts and be elected by the voters of said district
- Reform the appointment process by allowing votes by the city-codified neighborhood area commissions to nominate candidates for vacant council seats, and strongly encourage council to select the locally-preferred nominee
- Make it so in the event council selects someone other than the locally-supported nominee, the council appointee would be disqualified from holding office after the next election
- Set term limits of 12 consecutive years
Petition committee members say the proposed amendment would allow for proper representation and create accountability in city government.
“As a lifelong Democrat and the elected ward 55 committee member of the Franklin County Democratic Party, I look forward to the party joining us in re-committing the party to the fair election values it supported in 1968 and in 1975,” said committee member and community development expert Jonathan Beard. “The so-called reforms pushed by City Hall in 2018 simply continue the same unfair electoral system that disempowers Columbus voters and elevates the power of the wealthy over everyday people.”
“The city of Columbus has diverse needs among its nearly 900,000 residents, and for too long our city government has relied on an antiquated system to meet our collective needs,” said committee member David Harewood. “This proposed change to the Columbus City Charter will ensure that our city government is accountable to the people they serve, rather than the vote-diluting at-large system under which it currently operates.”
In 2018, a previously proposed charter amendment — which would have added six spots for a total of 13 council members, altered the appointment process, and capped campaign donations — was rejected by City Council for violating the city’s single-subject rule. Everyday People sued in the Ohio Supreme Court, eventually losing in a 4-5 split decision.
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