Happy first day of autumn!
Even though it still feels like summer outside, Ohioans are shifting their schedules into fall activities – kids and college students are back at school, high school and college football games, harvest festivals, and more.
The Fair Districts campaign is shifting from summer to fall as well. Summer was wonderful for collecting petition signatures at parades and county fairs. Now that fall is here, people have been asking where we should focus our activity.
Here are some ideas to keep Fair Districts moving towards our goal of 305+ thousand signatures and $2 million dollars by the end of the year:
By Carl Carnevale, veteran, law student at the University of Akron, and redistricting reformer
230 years ago yesterday, a smattering of lawyers, businessmen, politicians, and a good doctor officially ratified the founding of our nation. It wasn’t easy; the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was wrought with tension and was nearly scuttled that summer.
But the founding fathers forged ahead, understanding that they needed to fortify certain fundamentals of the new representative government to ensure that it would be respectful of the peoples’ rights to life, liberty, and property.
One of the chief principles addressed during the convention was the manner of conducting elections. The U.S. Constitution gave states the right to conduct their elections. This served two functions – first, it provided a vital pillar of sovereignty for the states; second, flexibility was a good way to ensure that each state could hold elections honestly and efficiently without fear of federal meddling.
The founders foresaw the eventual rise of political parties in U.S. politics. James Madison’s Federalist No. 10 deals directly with designing the government to ensure that political factions do not overrun the government and destroy peoples’ rights. Madison considered the inevitable ills of factions to be the penultimate danger of a sound republic.
How fitting that as soon as the nation was formed, the Gerrymander came for him
In the very first elections for U.S. Congress, the anti-federalists who controlled the Virginia legislature re-drew their 5th congressional district in an attempt to keep Madison out of Congress! Thankfully, the anti-federalist partisans were unsuccessful that time – Madison won.
But 230 years later, I wonder how many Madisons, Jeffersons, Franklins, and other talented and patriotic public servants have been denied the right to serve by the evil of gerrymandering. The loss is not only theirs, but ours.
Today, the nation’s population is over 320 million. And, right or wrongly (another issue for another time), we still have only two parties to represent this massive bloc of people across an vast spectrum of industrial, economic and cultural interests. For these reasons, the need for fair, honest, and competitive elections is more apparent than perhaps any other point in our nation’s history.
In a time when people feel that the political system is unresponsive to them, gerrymandering does far more damage beyond favoring one party over another – it erodes faith in the republic. To me, this erosion is the most dangerous enemy we face as a society, more dangerous than any terrorist or rival nation.
We cannot allow the notion that our politics is an exercise in special interest corruption or factional dominance to become widespread. Our elections must be meaningful and fair. We can vigilantly defend against gerrymandering by being the change we want and need to see. Great Ohioans from all over have taken this to heart and are working together to end this destructive practice.
The sheer breadth of the effort so far cannot be denied. The majority of people badly want an end to gerrymandered districts, and they are determined to see it through despite the efforts of many in the Ohio Legislature who would rather keep their cushy status quo.
Thanks to wonderful redistricting reformers all over the state, it’s only a matter of time before the petition signatures reach their required marks in every county. I relish the opportunity to see the people of Ohio slay the Gerrymander in the next general election; it is an opportunity well worth fighting for.
The founders designed our election system brilliantly; for all of our contentions, it still stands today as a gleaming symbol of freedom that has become the envy of the world. But the people must feel that the game is fair if they are to keep the faith in this model of government. The Gerrymander is the biggest threat to that good faith.
Thankfully, We the People of Ohio are ready to slay the dragon and give the rest of the country the blueprint to fighting for fair and competitive elections that include all of the people – just as the Constitution intended.
Happy Constitution Day, my friends. Fight on.
By Carrie Davis, League of Women Voters of Ohio
There have been some exciting developments on the redistricting reform front!
Yesterday, statehouse legislative leadership said that they have been in discussions about congressional redistricting reform and anticipate making an announcement next week. (See “Legislative leaders meet on congressional redistricting,” Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/2017)
We are gratified that the legislature is finally taking this issue seriously.
No doubt, it has become increasingly hard for the Statehouse to ignore the 2700-plus Fair Districts volunteers around the state and the 120,000-plus Ohio voters who signed the Fair Districts initiative petition to ensure congressional redistricting reform makes it onto the 2018 ballot, with or without the legislature’s help.
While legislative leadership’s public comments are a hopeful sign, we have to balance that hope with a realistic appraisal of the situation.
Despite voters’ overwhelming passage of state redistricting reform in 2015, and our persistent lobbying, the legislature has thus far declined to act on any of the congressional redistricting reform proposals submitted in 2015, 2016, or 2017. Until the legislature does more than talk, we need to continue pushing forward with our Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio initiative.
That said, we have always supported a legislative solution and continued to lobby for reform in the legislature. However, we will carefully scrutinize any proposal to ensure it puts forward real reform, not just pay lip service to the problem.
Please contact your state senator and representative and urge them to support real redistricting reform for our congressional districts, including the following essential protections:
Until the legislature passes a proposal to put meaningful reform before voters, we will continue moving forward with a citizen initiative in order to make sure reform is enacted before the next time Congressional districts are redrawn. So keep collecting signatures!
By Rita Kipp, retired academic and hopeful redistricting reformer
Indivisible: OH 12 East, especially its Fair Districts=Fair Elections petition drive, and Strong Voices Rising, a local group of mostly women supporting various causes, gave direction to my new activist impulses. More recently I have joined with others to revive the moribund League of Women Voters of Licking County.
Through this transformative journey of the last several months, Hope in the Dark was my motivational beacon.
Solnit argues that taking action requires that we hope. What is more, it builds hope. The hopeless do not act. There is good reason for hope, she says, even when the outcome looks most bleak. This is because the future – and the assumption that it is bleak – are not knowable.
With the campaign for Fair Districts pushing on, and as we dig ever more deeply within ourselves to tap reserves of courage and energy, I offer this paragraph from Hope in the Dark as inspiration to all volunteers and activists:
"Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all the fine without involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone."
Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016), Foreword to the Third Edition, page xv.