Redistricting reformers waited for a long time to kick off the Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio campaign. Ohio voters can't be faulted for assuming that the legislature would take action after the successful passage of Issue 1 in 2015, which won by more than 71% of the vote and in all 88 counties. When the Ohio General Assembly failed to act, redistricting reformers began circulating petitions and we now have over 174,000 signatures.
After two public hearings of state legislature's Congressional Redistricting Reform Working Group, legislators have reported some productive conversations. Let's make sure that those discussions continue to focus on what's best for Ohio voters, rather than what's good for those in power.
It's time to end gerrymandering and our legislators must either walk away or pass real, substantive redistricting reform.
Wondering how you can help? Host a Postcard Party! Get together with your friends and send a note to the members of the Congressional Redistricting Reform Working Group. If you are interested in holding a Postcard Party, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or call or write your Statehouse representative today, to say that Ohioans deserve fair districts and fair elections:
By Jarrett Thompson, Commmon Cause Ohio
What better place to find voters than at the polls? Consider spending Election Day working to improve democracy!
Here are just a few tips:
Petition Signature Collection Reminders and Best Practices
If you are someone who texts, please text PETITION to 864237. Then please text us when you arrive at your polling location. If you have questions on Election Day, please call me Fair Districts = Fair Elections at 614-259-8388.
Petition Training on Demand. This training reviews the do's and don'ts of signature gathering. Sign up here to register and view the training at your convenience.
Redistricting FAQs on Demand. A recording that answers redistricting reformers' most frequently asked questions is now available online. Sign up here to register and view the training at your convenience.
A big thank you to all the redistricting reformers! And don't forget to vote.
Hunger Network in Ohio Director, Nick Bates, testifies on November 1 in support of bipartisan redistricting reform. Bates joins numerous other advocates calling on the state legislature to adopt a bipartisan plan to pass congressional redistricting reform. Below is a written transcipt of his testimony:
Good evening. My name is Nicholas Bates and I serve as a Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) called by the Southern Ohio Synod to serve as the Director of the Hunger Network in Ohio. The Hunger Network is an ecumenical ministry that seeks long-term solutions to hunger by addressing root causes. The Hunger Network works with the Northeast, Southern and Northwest Ohio Synods of the ELCA, the Eastern and Western Conferences of the United Methodist Church, the Ohio and Southern Ohio Diocese of the Episcopal Church, and the Central Southeast Association of the United Church of Christ.
As I finish my first full year as director of the Hunger Network, I have realized that people of faith love to be authentic about an issue, because we approach it from a position of faith and not a position of politics. Our congregations are filled with people from all political stripes and clergy appreciate the views and values that each person brings to the community.
We believe that only through authentic and honest discourse and debate can we solve some of our most pressing problems in Ohio – like infant mortality, hunger, and poverty. Most clergy that I have spoken with have voted for people in both political parties. They base their personal votes (believe it or not) on a candidate’s ability to serve the community and address the real needs that they see.
This is why we encourage you to put forward a bipartisan plan to reform congressional redistricting in Ohio. Like any good sermon, I will break it down to three main points.
Competitive districts will help us to listen to one another. As a person of faith, I am called to right relationship with my neighbor and right relationship requires us to listen to one another. Competitive districts will require candidates for office to answer difficult questions, listen to the voters, and engage their opponents in a way that doesn’t occur when seats are "safe."
Second, compact districts will encourage community. As congregations bring people together to talk about issues, we should easily know whose district we are in. At my small congregation here in Columbus, we have members from three separate congressional districts – weakening our collective voice on issues that we care about.
Finally, we need to have faith in the electoral process. Our system of democracy requires faith by the people that the process is fair. If a candidate wins or loses, we need to trust that the outcome represents the will of the people. Gerrymandering undercuts the faith needed for democracy to work.
When I preach, I wear a towel around my waist to remind me of the story of Jesus washing the feet of his Disciples – it is a story about our call to humility and service in the world. Elected officials are also servants and have a similar call to humility and service, and I believe fair and competitive districts will equip our public servants in Washington with their towel to better serve our communities.
We are calling on you today to adopt a bipartisan congressional redistricting plan that will best serve the people.
Overview of the first hearing on October 26, 2017
Overview of the second hearing on November 1, 2017
A big thank you to all the redistricting reformers! Together, we can slay the gerrymander. It's been busy! Ohioans have been collecting signatures at Halloween parties, concerts and at Early Vote. On Wednesday November 1, the Congressional Redistricting Working Group held its second public hearing.
The hearing room was packed and twenty people testified. Three people from Mercer County testified from about the importance of fair districts. Each of them were from a different congressional district!
Michael Li from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University testified that Ohio is one of the six of the worst gerrymandered states in the entire country.
Professor Ned Hill of the Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University drew laughs from the crowd describing congressional districts and testified about the problem with uncompetitive general elections:
"Drawing a set of packed and Gerrymandered legislative districts has resulted in functional disenfranchisement of unaffiliated voters and here is the looming Constitutional crisis. What has occurred in Ohio in both Congressional and state-level electoral contests is a shift in political power from general election to primaries. Today, primaries where political contests are being decided in Ohio. Left without their voices and choices are unaffiliated voters."
Mosie Welch shared her experiences "on the sidewalks of Medina County" collecting signatures. Stark County and Licking County also were well represented. Rita Kipp of the League of Women Voters of Licking County described gerrymandering as "taking the wind out of the sails of democracy."
Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio called on the Working Group to listen to the voters and support congressional redistricting reform the way they did state legislative reform:
"Some of Ohio's leading newspapers have suggested that this working group could be a ruse - an effort to convince the hard-working volunteers to stop collecting signatures and when they do, you will put forth a partisan replacement that does little to restore democracy. I urge you to prove those skeptics wrong. Ohioans should get the opportunity to vote on a proposal that would truly reform our system of designing congressional districts."
Life long Republican Don Thompson of Hilliard was even more pointed:
"It is my view that the legislative in-action - the severe lack of responsibility from within the Ohio General Assembly - has resulted in forcing many many thousands of volunteer hours to be spent collecting signatures to provide an opportunity for voters to insist on responsible congressional redistricting reform."
Cleveland.com has more on the hearing: Ohio Legislators Say Gerrymandering Needs to be Fixed but Will They Act?, November 2, 2017
Watch the hearing on the Ohio Channel.
Election Day is the perfect day to collect signatures!
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