Ohio has near-even numbers of Democratic and Republican voters, but gerrymandering has Republicans controlling about two-thirds of the state legislature.
The people and policies Democrats champion are suffering as a result.
- Despite a modest economic recovery under Gov. John Kasich, poverty in Ohio has actually ticked up.
- Our state has not recovered all the jobs lost in the Great Recession. Most other states have.
- Ohio’s infant mortality rate is among the nation’s highest – even worse than Guatemala. For black babies, it is the nation’s worst.
- Our charter schools are nationally ridiculed yet a reform bill that won unanimous support in the Ohio Senate is languishing in the charter-friendly Ohio House.
- Women’s health care is under constant attack, causing abortion clinics to close and Planned Parenthood clinics to compete with unqualified rivals for public dollars.
- By doing away with renewable energy benchmarks, Ohio has undercut the green economy and no longer leads the nation in new, good-paying green jobs.
But millionaires in Ohio keep getting big tax cuts.
To help make Ohio a state where everyone has an opportunity to succeed, we must end gerrymandering and fix the way we draw legislative districts. This November, we can do that by passing Issue 1.
A July 10 post by David DeWitt questioned the merits of Issue 1 and questioned the motives of some who helped put it on the ballot. His main message was the need for Ohio Democrats to diligently review Issue 1 and make sure it really is a good idea.
No disagreement on the value of diligence but the plan was vetted by state and national experts before nearly every Democrat and Republican in the state legislature voted for it. The handful of “no” votes came mainly from Tea Party Republicans.
So far, Issue 1 has been officially endorsed by a wide array of groups such as the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Ohio, ProgressOhio, America Votes, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Environmental Council, Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, Ohio Voice, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Republican Party, Faith in Public Life and Democratic Voices. More are in process.
Mr. DeWitt lauds Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper for his caution and notes, “The National Committee for Effective Congress, or NCEC, is among entities whose modeling work is raising concerns among some Democrats…’’
NCEC was tasked with determining what legislative districts would look like if Issue 1 passed and use that modeling to recommend whether the party should endorse it. NCEC’s negative findings, however, were based on an erroneous assumption that badly skewed the results.
To his credit, Pepper sought a second opinion from Clarity Campaign Labs that reached this conclusion:
In summary, I think the law will benefit Ohio Democrats in a number of ways .… If Democrats have a majority of votes on the (Redistricting) Commission, they could draw a map with a majority of seats in the legislature in a variety of different ways. If Republicans maintain a majority of votes on the Commission, they could not create a map that is as partisan as the current map. Because the law wouldn’t prevent Democrats from drawing lines that we could win under, and would provide a fairer map in the event of Republican control, I would recommend that the Executive Committee endorse the amendment and that ODP work to ensure it passes.
The real dispute centers the two choices Democrats face:
- Embrace fairness by working to pass Issue 1, which Clarity and other experts said could allow Democrats to have a majority of seats in the legislature but by a narrower margin than Republicans enjoy today.
- Continue today’s unfair system that lets the party in power badly gerrymander districts, hope Democrats can win the statewide races needed to take control of the gerrymandering process and eventually craft districts that give them lopsided margins.
If choice No. 1 wins, supporters will use that momentum to immediately launch a campaign for Congressional redistricting reform. Reform is long overdue. Let’s hope Democrats don’t miss an opportunity to end gerrymandering and give their voters a real voice.
Sandy Theis covered two failed redistricting efforts as a Statehouse reporter, and today she heads ProgressOhio and is working to pass the latest reform plan.