By Kathleen Dragoman and Michele L. SIMONELLI
Special to The Vindicator
The politicians have rigged the system to draw Statehouse and Congressional lines and turned our government from “we the people” into “we the politicians.” They have stolen our voice, our vote and our power. Instead of a system that protects the voice of the people by drawing district lines in a way that is fair and balanced, that give us a real choice of candidates, the politicians have rigged the system to make sure they have all the power to protect themselves and their friends.
Contrary to claims made by Shirley Christian and James “Ted” Roberts in the Oct. 18 Vindicator, it is perfectly appropriate for judges to play a role in the appointment of public officials. In fact, this is a critical component of the checks and balances that exist under our existing system. For example, in Ohio, probate and common pleas court judges have the authority to appoint certain public officials. Park commissioners (ORC 1545.06), members of joint vocational school districts (ORC 3313.11), members of metropolitan housing authority boards (ORC 3735.27) among others, are appointed by judges. Ohio has a long history of having judges appoint officials where those judges are insulated, much as they are in this proposal, from having to review the work of the appointees.
Appellate judges play a role in the process of appointing redistricting commissioners in other states, including Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, and New Jersey. Judges in some of these states play a much greater role — actually selecting commissioners, rather than just narrowing the pool of applicants — as compared with the role of appellate judges under Issue 2. The existence of such authority in other states should put to rest the idea that Issue 2 is a threat to separation of powers. To the contrary, it will provide a needed check on the conflict of interest that sitting legislators and other public officials have in our current system.
We believe that judges are ideally suited by temperament and experience to perform the limited role they are given in this proposal. That judges have ably performed a comparable role in Ohio and other states is testament to the fact that they are not only competent but best suited to judge the qualifications and capacity for impartiality of applicants for Ohio’s proposed citizens’ commission.
Kathleen Dragoman is president of the League of Women Voters Youngstown Chapter; Michele L. Simonelli, is first vice president.