The polls in the presidential race in Ohio are the best illustration of why the state’s voters should vote yes on Issue 2, the constitutional amendment that would revise the way the state’s congressional districts are apportioned.
Ohio is clearly the most purple of states, shifting from red to blue one election and back again the next. And presidential elections are almost traditionally toss-ups between the Democrat and the Republican.
And yet, unless Issue 2 passes, Ohio’s congressional districts will be dramatically tilted for the next decade toward Republicans, thanks to a blatantly partisan redistricting process and the GOP’s luck in controlling the General Assembly. We say luck, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Republicans have been fortunate enough to have had control of the General Assembly and most statewide offices at just the right time — in 2002 and 2010 — which has allowed them to draw both congressional and General Assembly boundaries that have worked to their advantage.
This good fortune has had a cumulative effect, giving the party power that is disproportionate to its numbers.
A step too far
But in the congressional redistricting that went into effect with this election, the party outdid itself. With advice and consent from U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republicans cut the state up into 16 tortured pieces that favor their party 12 to 4. In other words, in a 50-50 state, Republicans have managed to give themselves a 75-25 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.
Issue 2 may not be a perfect solution, but its passage will put the state on a path toward more equitable, less partisan congressional districting. And while those who oppose Issue 2 talk reassuringly about other alternatives, no one can reasonably claim that anything other than passage of Issue 2 will force Ohio to throw out its 12-4 map and start over again.
In a 50-50 state, that map ought to be very close to 16 states in which either party is competitive. That goal is achievable under a redistricting system that is not hostage to partisan politics.
If Ohio voters reject Issue 2, some of the state’s politicians will start talking about developing a more equitable procedure by the next census in 2020. But those holding the power are more likely to shrug. In any event, Ohio voters would be sending a lopsided, unrepresentative delegation to Washington for the next decade.
One of the primary complaints about Issue 2 is that it is cumbersome and that it could cost $11 million to $15 million to administer over eight years.
Yes, it’s cumbersome coming up with a system that tries to take the politics out of politics. But government works its way through more complicated mazes every day without breaking a sweat. As to the cost, that $15 million figure would work out to about 15 cents per person per year. Hardly an extravagant price for fair elections.
Bar Association objections
The Ohio State Bar Association has been one of the most vocal of the nonpartisan critics of Issue 2. Its concerns center around appeals court judges and supreme court justices being involved in the process, a process that some of those jurists might have to subsequently consider in their courtrooms.
This is a valid concern, and one that deserves respect. It does not, however, outweigh the injustice being done to voters across the state who have been robbed of their electoral voice by the gerrymandering of electoral districts.
One of the strongest supporters of the issue is the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. The league, along with other groups, conducted a national contest that challenged everyday people to come up with a map of Ohio congressional districts that respected geographic and political boundaries and did so in a way that the districts were closely competitive for the political parties. Using readily available census data and computer programs, several contestants were able to suggest redistricting boundaries that were logical and fair.
Issue 2 would allow the creation of a redistricting commission that would be able to use such data to draw such congressional districts.
Restoring balance to Ohio’s redistricting process outweighs whatever shortcomings Issue 2 may have. The Vindicator urges a yes vote on Issue 2.
The other constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot is Issue 1, which would create a convention to revise, alter or amend the Ohio Constitution.
We are wary of constitutional conventions that can too easily go too far afield. Ohio voters have the ability to amend the constitution through the ballot box. It is not an easy process, but amending constitutions shouldn’t be easy.
The Vindicator urges a no vote on Issue 1.