by Janetta King

Last month Ohioans got a front row seat to the power of citizen activism.

We hear that citizens across the country are more engaged and paying attention to politics like never before. But does it even matter? In Ohio it clearly did. 

Over the last eight months, an army of volunteers from across the state, most of them women by the way, gathered signatures for a citizen-led ballot initiative to reform the congressional redistricting process. And last month, they sat across the table from Ohio’s legislative leaders and agreed on a package that creates a bipartisan process for drawing congressional districts that better represents all Ohioans.

Ohioans will have an opportunity to support this bipartisan reform on the ballot on May 8, 2018 in the form of Issue 1, in large part due to volunteers who care about our democracy and gave hours upon hours of their personal time to make elections fairer.

While these wins don’t happen as often as we’d like, when it does, it gives us faith in our democracy—that when we use the tools that we are given as citizens, we can make a difference.

In his farewell address President Barack Obama said “…our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.” If you doubt the average citizen can play a role in shoring up our democratic intuitions, you should consider the citizen activists who threw themselves at ending gerrymandering in Ohio and won.

Janetta King is President and CEO of Innovation Ohio, a progressive research and advocacy nonprofit that authored the Ohio Resistance Guide for citizen activists. She has served as Chief of Staff to Governor Ted Strickland, as well as for the DC-based Center for American Progress Action Fund, and has advised on a number of Democratic campaigns.