Today’s release of a report by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting and a cadre of good-government groups including Ohio Citizen Action and the League of Women of Voters about Ohio’s overly partisan and laughable redistricting effort is almost as telling as the predictable Republican response to it.
On Friday, when the report was first announced, Ohio House GOP Caucus Communication Mike Dittoe was defiant, defending the GOP’s handling of reapportionment as the model of transparency by citing the regional public meetings held, the first of the kind in the process. The GOP communication apparatus also pointed out the Secretary of State permitted people to submit their own maps. (Ironically, the report notes that one of the outstanding public records requests is one placed to… Mr. Dittoe.)
This is what is called in politics as “window dressing.” Or in accounting, it’s the equivalent of keeping two books. One that you keep for public dissemination, and the other which contains the reality. The regional meeting were hardly informative for public input, since there was no publicly available proposed map for the public to give input on. So, I’m not sure how much credit the GOP expects for hold public input meetings in which the public was not given the only piece of information that they were supposedly seeking “input.”
As for the redistricting contest, just like the public meeting, you can’t find any evidence that those maps were ever actually considered in the drawing of the maps, unless the GOP actually used them to model what NOT to accept.
In the end, we have GOP spin that talks about ridiculous complaints that suggest the title “Elephant in the Room” of the report reveals some partisan bias that ignores how the Democrats operated in the shadows … doing what exactly? The Democrats had virtually no say in how these maps were drawn. There was little public debate made of these maps. They were finalized in secret, only to be quickly passed after publicly revealed. That is the undisputed evidence from today’s report, confirming the assumption that we all made: the apportionment board didn’t just draw up the map shortly before they were unveiled, but they had been part of a partisan and secret process.
The fact is that John Boehner’s representatives never went to a public meeting to ask that Timken, a company’s whose executives are major Republican donors, be redrawn into freshman Jim Renacci’s district. Renacci just happens to be facing a major contest by Democratic congresswoman Betty Sutton who found herself without a district thanks to the maps drawn in secret.
If the redistricting process was nearly as transparent as Speaker Batchelder’s communication director maintains, then why wasn’t Speaker Boehner’s political lackey’s request about Timken not part of some public hearing. Are we supposed to applaud them simply because they “decided” that the records they created in their secret meetings were still, nonetheless, public records that had to be produced if anyone thought to ask for them?
48 hours. That’s about as much time as the people of Ohio had from the moment this map was public revealed before it had already passed the Ohio House of Representatives. Speaker Batchelder publicly denied that the congressional map was so tilted as to create essentially twelve districts while the staffers of the Apportionment Board show, using their own metrics, that the maps they drew created exactly 12 district.
You have an e-mail from a Republican insider and mapmaking consultant (Ray Dirossi) talking about the maps they are drawing will save “millions” over the coming years by making the races so uncompetitive. Joe Public didn’t have access to the non-governmental e-mail accounts the staffers involved in the apportionment process apparently regularly used to conduct state business, nor did the public know about their secret office being run out of a hotel room paid entirely with tax dollars.
Yes, this stuff is becoming public now, but it was not made public at the time it mattered, when the map was under consideration. That, by definition, means the map drawing process was not transparent. But beyond that, there is simply no reason to believe that this map operated under any other principle than to create the most partisan, Republican map possible. There is no evidence in these documents that the people drawing the map was motivated by a single good government concept regarding redistricting like compactness, keeping communities together, or competitive districts. Basically, they sought to draw a map they believed would not draw a successful Civil Rights Act-based challenge. That’s it.
And if the all-volunteer effort to place this map on a referendum fails to get the signatures necessary to repeal this map, Ohio will be stuck with this map for ten years. Consider not only signing such a petition, but learn what you can do to help get more signatures before the Christmas deadline.