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Why fair maps are essential for our democracy

Three strikes and you’re out? The politicians in Ohio have struck out three times, and we, the citizens of Ohio, are crying foul.

Strike 1: Ignoring the will of the voters and the Ohio Supreme Court by repeatedly imposing unconstitutional maps on us. Strike 2: Charging us $20 million for a desperate failed election in August to try to fool us into signing away majority rule. Strike 3: Democrats colluding with Republicans on the political redistricting commission in the dark of night to draw up and then pass even more heavily gerrymandered maps.

Enough is enough. The citizens of Ohio are tired of the games, and we are taking charge.

I am a registered voter in Ohio, and I am not affiliated with any political party. I vote more conservatively on some issues and more liberally on others. I am not beholden to any political party or political ideology, and I increasingly am not represented in the political process because of political gerrymandering in Ohio.

That is why I am so excited about the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment, which is currently gathering signatures to qualify for the 2024 Ohio General Election Ballot. This amendment will put citizens in charge of legislative map drawing and require fair maps and a transparent process.

Under the United States and Ohio Constitutions, there are many checks and balances on the power of the three branches of government. However, the redistricting process is one of the most egregious outliers associated with this basic Constitutional structure. Allowing politicians who are in office to draw district lines to help themselves and their friends is inherently a conflict. Repeated decisions by the Ohio Supreme Court to strike the unconstitutional maps went ignored by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. Fealty to political party by politicians on both the Commission and in the Legislature resulted in a recipe for the type of gerrymandering that Ohioans have been subjected to for decades from both major parties.

The redistricting reforms in 2015 and 2018 aimed at blunting the most egregious gerrymandering by constituting the Ohio Redistricting Commission from a combination of members from the legislature and statewide elected offices. What the reforms did not account for was the inability for any of those office-holders to set aside their party affiliation and act as impartial members of the commission so that the voices of Ohio voters would be fairly represented.

The current Ohio Redistricting Commission has repeatedly failed to create district maps that comply with constitutional requirements for unbiased and fair maps.

Their back-room abuses of power are obvious, and it’s clear they aren’t going to change their behavior.

Ohio voters need a check and balance in the redistricting process. A citizens redistricting commission can be that check to achieve representative balance.

The Citizens Not Politicians Amendment would establish an independent redistricting commission made up of 15 Ohio citizens with no direct vested interest in the final drawn maps. No current or past office holder would be permitted to be a member of the commission. And, for the first time, the proposed reforms fosters balance through a commission comprising equal parts five commission members from each of the two dominant political parties and five Ohio citizens who are not affiliated with either party. Further, there are robust public input provisions and a process to resolve impasses. Finally, and most importantly divergent from our recent experience, the entire process will be publicly accessible and transparent.

As an unaffiliated voter, I have observed increasingly partisan candidates make it through the primaries with many candidates running an uncontested general election campaign due to the skewed partisan makeup of our gerrymandered districts. Gerrymandering is the most insidious form of stealing elections because the votes are manipulated well in advance of a particular election. A combination of gerrymandering and two dominant political parties in Ohio all but shuts out voices from other parties and unaffiliated candidates. This stifles robust debate in the legislature and supports extreme legislation that is out of touch with the Ohio electorate.

Please join me and Citizens Not Politicians in gathering signatures to finally reform the redistricting process in Ohio.

Together, we can make Ohio government healthier and more responsive to its people, which will lead to more participation of everyday citizens and better outcomes for all of us. Learn more at CitizensNotPoliticians.org.

Michael Ahern is a registered independent voter in Blacklick, Ohio. He is a citizen sponsor of the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment.

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