The Dayton Daily News reported yesterday that opponents of the Voters First amendment have started a PAC to defend the current redistricting process which Republicans so thoroughly and completely abused last year. And it looks like the same people involved in what’s been called “the most grotesque partisan gerrymander” in recent memory are now lining up to defend the status quo.
The current system allows the political party in power to have full control over the redistricting process, and this can have disastrous and unfair results as we clearly saw last year. Republican operatives spent $10,000 in taxpayer money to rent a secret hotel room in Columbus known as “the bunker”, hiding their work from the public, and redrawing lines favoring Republicans and Republican donors at the request of other Republican operatives.
Voters First would change this process, putting an independent citizens commission in charge of drawing fair and competitive districts.
Obviously Republicans are afraid of anything that would loosen their grip on power, but they can’t come out directly and say that. Instead, they’ve come up with a different complaint: the citizens on the Voters First commission are not elected officials and therefore aren’t directly accountable to the voters. But their argument doesn’t hold any water, for two important reasons:
1. The politicians who are supposedly in charge of this process have drawn the districts in such a way that it is very unlikely they will every be voted out of office.
I think most people would agree that having non-politicians on the commission is actually a GOOD thing. Voters should be choosing their politicians, not the other way around. But that’s exactly how it works now: Republicans spent all last year picking the voters they wanted in their districts. And they’ve chosen to defend their behavior not by claiming what they did was right or fair or just, but by saying: sure we totally skewed the system in our favor but at least we are responsible to the voters. If you don’t like what we did, you can always vote us out of office.
The problem, of course, is that WE CAN’T because they’ve drawn the legislative districts in such a way as to guarantee that is not possible.
Their argument against voters first – which is that commissioners aren’t responsible to the voters – is a bogus one. The current system almost guarantees that Republicans in charge of this process can’t be voted out.
2. The people who actually did draw the district lines last year weren’t politicians at all.
It’s also important to note one other very important fact: the people who actually drew the horrible, Gerrymandered districts this time – the ones Republicans claim are responsible to the voters – were NOT politicians but instead highly paid Republican operatives.
Heather Mann and Ray DiRossi, both veteran Republican legislative staffers, have never been elected to public office. And yet both were directly responsible for drawing the new lines. Mann and DiRossi were each paid $105,000, despite the fact that neither had any redistricting experience, to sit in the secret “bunker” and redraw district lines – often taking direction from other non-elected officials like Tom Whatman, former ORP executive director and lobbyist and current director of the Team Boehner PAC.
Even if you agree, for some odd reason, that the politicians in power should have the absolute right to secretly redraw their own legislative and congressional districts without any input from the public or other political parties, you still have to admit: that is absolutely NOT what the Republicans did last year.
Instead they hired two unelected legislative staffers, paid them a huge salary for three months’ work, hid them away in a secret “bunker” and let them redraw congressional and legislative districts with the help of other unelected party operatives. There is absolutely NOTHING about this process that was the least bit fair and nothing about this process that the voters can do anything about since none of the people responsible is an elected official.
And yet, this is the argument Repubicans will attempt to make in favor of the current system, and they’ve started a new anti-Voters First PAC, hilariously named “Protect Your Vote”, to do just that.
It is beyond me how anyone would take seriously a group named “Protect Your Vote” who is defending the actions of Republicans who so clearly did NOT have the voters best interest in mind – especially once they know that the group is being driven by exactly the same unelected people responsible for last year’s redistricting nightmare.
As DDN reports, Protect Your Vote held a private meeting with lobbyists yesterday to raise money to defend the current redistricting process, and the invitiation to the event specifically mentions “fundraisers and others with ties to the Republican elected officials who had a hand in drafting the new boundaries” including Ray DiRossi and fundraisers for John Boehner.
Not surprisingly, “Campaign Manager Brandon Lynaugh declined Tuesday to comment on the fundraiser and other Protect Your Vote activities.” Because really? What would he say? “You know, I’m just hanging with my man DiRossi and we’re trying to raise a crap load of cash from Republicans and lobbyists who want to protect their own self interest by defending the really, really, REALLY unfair legislative and congressional districts we drew last year.” Unlikely.
My friends, what we have here is a bunch of entrenched Republicans with a lot of money trying to defend a system that allows solid Republican control over 12 of our 16 congressional districts despite the fact that Ohio is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. The Republican abuses of last year proved just how bad our current system is, and they’ve shown us that now is the time to fix it. The only way to truly Protect Your Vote is to ensure competitive districts are drawn fairly – and that’s exactly what Voters First will accomplish.