Jason here. This is my first post in almost a year. It is an entirely true story.
I had a talk with a co-worker this morning. He wasn’t really happy with his choices in his local U.S. House race, and I couldn’t really blame him. I said, “well, that’s why it’s so important to vote for Issue 2.” He just kind of looked at me. I said “In pretty much 15 of 16 house races in Ohio this year, the election that counted was in the primary. When a district isn’t competitive in the general election, extreme candidates are more likely to win the primary. The reason you don’t like either candidate is that the current redistricting method leads to gerrymandered districts that strongly disadvantage moderates. If we had redistricting reform, we’d have meaningful choices in November between candidates who both were more in tune with the general Ohioan.” (And yes, I actually do talk like this when I’m talking about politics…)
He looked a little ill. He asked, “But wouldn’t this committee just be appointed by politicians anyway? I mean, nobody put a lot of thought into this proposal, did they?” I said “Well, if by politicians you mean a panel of judges, forbidden from having a majority from one party, along with an independent auditor, then yes, it’s still politicians picking the committee, but it’s the least partisan set of politicians anybody could come up with. The main problem with the politicians doing things now is that there is a majority from one party who controls the process, and the secondary issue is that current politicians use the process to protect themselves. Judges have no personal stake in legislative boundaries, so the incumbency problem goes away, too. I think that the groups like the League of Women Voters, with input from some of the top Political Science and Election Law scholars in the state, actually did a pretty good job with the proposal.”
He was silent for a second. “Well… oops? I voted early, and I’m thinking now that I probably voted the wrong way. It’s just that I hadn’t heard much about it beyond the ads, and the ballot was so long and hard to understand…”
This is when I started looking a little ill. Jon Husted and cronies initially wanted to put completely dishonest language on the ballot. The courts made them change it. They responded by putting the whole text of the proposal on the ballot. Summaries are typically used because actual proposal text tends to be too long and confusing. This is what they intended. The initial ballot language they wanted to use featured the same lies that they were using in their ads – lies that they had to abandon when faced with a possible censure from the Ohio Elections Commission.
My coworker is an extremely intelligent and competent guy. If the combination of partisan lies and confusing ballot language made him vote against a proposal that he, in principle, would otherwise have voted for, how many other Ohioans will have these conversations on Wednesday with their coworkers that end up with “Well… oops?”
Right now, the biggest opposition to Issue 2 comes from the GOP establishment. They know that if Issue 2 passes, they’ll lose the decisive advantage they currently have in choosing Ohio’s congressional delegation. I understand that, and I’m not naive; a great number of Plunderbund’s readers might be opposed to Issue 2 if Columbus was currently in the hands of the Democrats. But this is not a partisan issue. If you are a Republican in Columbus who will be represented, like myself, by Joyce Beatty, despite the fact that, unlike me, you were not allowed to vote in the election that decided who your representative would be, then you were sold out by the current system just as much as anyone else.
I’m voting for Obama. I hope you are, too. When it comes right down to it, however, my country survived eight years of W, and it will survive four years of Mitt should it come to that. I’m not as confident that American Democracy can survive the continued polarization of our legislature that is a direct result of partisan-controlled redistricting. Ohio is just one state, but we can set an example for the rest of the country.
There are few voters who haven’t made up their mind about their choices for president and senator. I’m guessing that tens if not hundreds of thousands are persuadable one way or the other on Issue 2. So, do me a favor – Talk with your friends, family, and coworkers about Issue 2 today. It’ll be a lot less awkward than talking to them about it on Wednesday.