By Catherine Turcer, Policy Analyst Common Cause Ohio
On Primary Election Day, most Ohioans were pulled to the polls by the drama of the presidential election. Would Governor Kasich win his first primary? Hillary or Bernie?
It doesn’t make sense but for many races, voters’ decisions in the Primary are often more
meaningful than the November General Election. Six Ohio House races (House Districts 1, 12, 70, 82, 87 and 96) and one Ohio Senate race (Senate District 2) had contested primaries on March 15. The winners of these primaries will go on to the election in November without an opponent.
In 2011 the state legislature created new congressional districts. Of the sixteen Ohio
congressional districts, twelve districts lean Republican and four give the Democratic Party an advantage. In 2012 and 2014, Republican congressional candidates won in the Republican leaning districts (12 for 12). In those elections, Democratic congressional candidates won in those that give the Democrats the advantage (4 for 4).
That’s the power of gerrymandering! By rigging the district lines, the party in power at the Ohio Statehouse skews election results for years to come.
The challengers to Republican members of Congress in this year’s Primary came from the right. And this isn’t unusual. Fear of a strong Primary challenge can push our representatives to the extremes and make them less likely to compromise.
Unfair, uncompetitive elections in November and partisan gridlock in Washington are the
reason that all voters— left, right and center— should support congressional redistricting
Sixteen incumbent members of the Ohio House and one Ohio Senator ran unopposed in last week’s Primary and will be unopposed in November.
We serve better fair districts that keep communities together and that’s why Ohio voters
overwhelmingly supported 2015’s Issue 1 (more than 70% of voters; winning in all 88 counties). But this only addressed state legislative redistricting. Now it’s time to tackle congressional redistricting reform.
What’s the hold up? The Ohio General Assembly. Speaker of the Ohio House Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) surprisingly describes congressional and state legislative redistrict as “apples and oranges.”
Fair is fair. We need to keep up the pressure and let Speaker Rosenberger know that what’s good for the Statehouse is good for Congress.
By Catherine Turcer, policy analyst Common Cause Ohio
Arts and politics intersect in a new exhibit at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus. Local
redistricting reformer and artist Sue Cavanaugh has a solo exhibit she calls Gathering IV: Once Upon An Idea. The show kicks off with an opening reception from 6:00pm-8:00pm on March 25.
Sue Cavanaugh shared why she would like to see redistricting reform, “I’ve always found
gerrymandering to be a strange way to manage a democracy. The idea that current office
holders get to draw districts so that the winner of the election is pre-determined seems the opposite of how a democracy should work.
“The last redistricting was especially upsetting. There is no way for someone living in the middle of Columbus to take a quick look at a map and find out their district. I wasn’t sure what I could do, but I thought I should address it from an artistic point of view. So I designed a bumper sticker that shows the shape of the three Congressional districts that include Columbus and I hand them out. It’s not much, but it’s something.”
Sue’s new exhibit challenges the U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) which determined that corporations had First Amendment Rights and equated money and speech. Sue asked herself, what would corporate skin look like? She envisions it as men’s white shirts, wrinkled and stuffed with shredded cash.
“The idea of corporations as people reminded me of the story of the emperor’s new clothes. In my mind, no matter how many rights we give to them and no matter who says it or how loud they say it, corporations are not people,” said Sue in her artist’s statement.
The notion that money is speech is satirized in “Free Speech” in which packets of shredded cash are labeled “Not for Sale.” Visitors are invited to take a packet home.
The installation features deconstructed shirt parts replete with shredded money from the Federal Reserve. While Sue’s art serves as “speech” about “money as speech,” you may wonder how much it costs to buy a bag of shredded bills. And the answer— $45.00.
Come talk to Sue Cavanaugh about her art during Conversation and Coffee (March 31 from noon to 1:00pm). The Cultural Arts Center is located at 139 West Main Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. For more information about Sue, visit www.suecavanaughart.com. Sue is represented by Muse Gallery.
by Carrie Davis, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio
Last fall, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan plan to reform how we draw state legislative districts. No sooner was Election Day over last November than reform advocates were clamoring for the next round – extending the same reforms to how we draw Ohio’s US House districts.
In the weeks since our November 2015 win, our Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition has been hard at work building a campaign plan to make Congressional redistricting reform a reality. Behind the scenes planning is never the sexy part of a campaign, but it is absolutely critical for success. Here is what your coalition campaign planning team has been up to since November.
Campaign Plan: The coalition formed a campaign planning committee to work out the strategy and logistics of running a successful campaign. This required taking a hard look at why Issue 1 succeeded in 2015, as well as why past efforts in 2012, 2005, and earlier failed. In doing so, we identified several key lessons to guide our work.
Lesson 1: Only by being open to other views and exploring the full range of possible reforms can we reach consensus.
One mistake that’s been made in past attempts has been to choose a reform model and then ask others to sign on to that plan with no room for input or change. Those efforts faced criticism for not being responsive to various stakeholders’ viewpoints and ultimately did not garner enough support to succeed.
Issue 1, on the other hand, succeeded in part because Democrats and Republicans came together to create a redistricting reform measure that both sides could support.
The Fair Districts Coalition formed a language committee to come up with possible options for ballot language. Since a successful effort will require finding language that garners a broad base of support across the political spectrum, the committee was charged with identifying what reforms we view (a) as essential and non-negotiable or (b) as preferred but negotiable, so that we are able to effectively negotiate a bipartisan compromise plan.
The language committee has been in touch with redistricting experts to help identify the strengths and weaknesses in different proposals or options for reform. The committee has also been involved in reviewing proposed reforms that are currently pending in front of a bipartisan committee of the Constitutional Modernization Commission.
Lesson 2: Just like the metaphor about many paths to the top of the mountain, there too are many paths to getting this issue on the ballot.
How we get such a consensus plan on the ballot also requires being open to exploring the full range of options. The committee recommended that the coalition adopt a two-track strategy: Keep pressure on the legislature to place Congressional reform on the ballot, including working with the Constitutional Modernization Commission to develop a bipartisan plan for the legislature to consider. To compliment that strategy, also take initial steps to placing reform on the ballot via citizen initiative, which means the Coalition needs to cultivate supporters, volunteers, and donors to build a solid foundation for a petition effort. Pursuing both options gives us the best chance of success.
Lesson 3: Don’t ignore political realities; deal with them.
We also have to recognize the current political landscape, both the pros and the cons, and build a plan with that in mind.
On the positive side, support continues to grow. In the last three months several prominent Ohio political leaders have come out publicly in support of reform. All of Ohio’s living governors – Richard Celeste, George Voinovich, Ted Strickland, and John Kasich – have said they support reform. All of Ohio’s current statewide officeholders – Governor Kasich, Secretary of State Husted, Attorney General DeWine, Auditor Yost, and Treasurer Mandel – have publicly stated they support Congressional redistricting reform. At a recent Constitutional Modernization Commission meeting, former House Speaker JoAnn Davidson also came out in support. Even President Obama mentioned it in his State of the Union address. In addition, several Ohio newspaper editorial boards have published strong opinions calling for reform.
Since we know that, unlike Issue 1 last fall, we will face opposition to Congressional reform, we need to keep working on building this strong, politically diverse base of support.
On the negative side, we have to face the reality that current leadership in the General Assembly opposes moving forward on Congressional redistricting reform. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger has described state legislative and Congressional redistricting as “apples and oranges.” Senate President Keith Faber describes extending Issue 1’s Bipartisan Redistricting Commission to redrawing Congressional lines as a “divestiture of legislative authority.” While there are legislators in both parties and both chambers who support Congressional redistricting reform, it’s tough to even get a hearing on a proposal without the support of leadership.
These realities, taken together, mean we need to use the two tracks described under “Lesson 2” to create political pressure on legislative leadership. That can include a reform proposal being passed by the Constitutional Modernization Commission and recommended to the legislature, newspaper editorial boards calling on legislative leaders not to delay reform, Ohioans calling their local legislators to demand action, and ultimately the Fair Districts Coalition moving forward with a citizen initiative if Speaker Rosenberger and President Faber continue to ignore public demands.
Here’s how you can help
We need a strong coordinated effort to accomplish our goal of moving Congressional redistricting reform forward. The Fair Districts Coalition has a campaign timeline with concrete action steps. Here’s how you can help right now: