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Democracy Up in Smoke? Issue 1 Backers Say "Focus!"

Issue 1 would change redistricting and the way state legislative districts are drawn in Ohio. Credit: Ohio Secretary of State.
Issue 1 would change redistricting and the way state legislative districts are drawn in Ohio. Credit: Ohio Secretary of State.
November 3, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio – There's concern democracy could go up in smoke in Ohio, with so much focus on Issue 3 – the measure to legalize marijuana – instead of the first issue on the ballot.

Issue 1 would revamp the way state legislative districts are drawn every 10 years. It is the fourth attempt to change the redistricting process in the past three decades.

Catherine Turcer, policy analyst with Common Cause Ohio, says Issue 1 would end the manipulation of district lines for partisan advantage.

"This is the first time where both the Democratic Party and Republican Party have come together and said we need to focus on the voters," she says. "Fair districts means fair elections, and how do we do that best? Let's create a bipartisan panel and let's have some really good rules and good transparency."

Currently, the political party in power draws districts in what is often a secret process, according to Turcer. Both the Ohio Republican and Ohio Democratic parties support Issue 1, along with other groups around the state. There is no organized campaign opposed to the measure.

While Issue 1 only covers state legislative districts, Turcer is hopeful that congressional redistricting will come next. She says gerrymandering has been going on for far too long.

"The term gerrymandering comes from this political cartoon that's more than 200 years old," she says. "So many states still have a winner-take-all system where the party in power draws the district lines to maximize their power and marginalize their opponents."

If Issue 1 prevails, the bipartisan commission would include two members from the minority party, and prohibit district plans from favoring or disfavoring either political party. Turcer says it comes down to fairer elections that better represent the people's interests over politicians.

"Let's face it, if you don't have competitive elections it's pretty hard to hold legislators accountable," she says. "We could really be the beginning of a domino effect across the country."

Arizona and California have each set up independent redistricting commissions.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH