Contact: Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio, 614-579-5509
Redistricting Reformers Remember Founding Father and Father of Gerrymandering
COLUMBUS—Today, the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition commemorated the 272nd birthday of one of the Founding Fathers, and creator of the original gerrymander with some birthday cake. Elbridge Gerry signed the Declaration of Independence and was a key supporter of the Bill of Rights. He served as VP under James Madison, but is best known for slicing and dicing Massachusetts Senate districts in 1812 to thwart his political rivals.
“What are we waiting for? Issue 1 of 2015 passed in all 88 counties with more than 71 % of voters supporting the end of gerrymandering of state legislative districts,” said Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio. “The voters have spoken loud and clear. It makes no sense to develop strong rules that prevent one party from steamrolling the other in state legislative mapmaking while giving General Assembly members free reign to do whatever they want with our congressional map.”
July marks the third year that the Legislative and Executive Branch Committee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission has been studying redistricting reforms. It has been nearly a year since congressional redistricting reform legislation was introduced by Ohio Senators Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and Tom Sawyer (D-Akron). Senate Joint Resolution 2 was introduced on July 22, 2015, and has been collecting dust ever since.
“The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission has a committee that has been studying redistricting reform for three years,” said Camille Wimbish of the Ohio Voter Coalition. “You can’t study away the problem of gerrymandering. Voters deserve fair districts that keep communities together and more competitive elections. ‘Safe’ seats make it nearly impossible to hold our elected officials accountable.”
Redistricting reformers shared cake which honored a past redistricting reformer, the late Governor and U.S. Senator George Voinovich. Here’s is how the cake was festooned:
Elbridge Gerry was born on July 17, 1744. In 1812, The Boston Gazette printed a cartoon showing that one of the Massachusetts districts that then Governor Gerry approved resembled a salamander and called that new creature a gerrymander. Since then, gerrymandering has become the preferred term to describe the drawing of legislative districts for political advantage.
“I like the symbolism of the marbled cake and it’s important to take a look back so that we can move forward, but I would much rather celebrate getting congressional redistricting reform on the ballot,” said Collin Marozzi, a student at the University of Akron. “The legislature left town once again without putting an end to congressional gerrymandering on this November’s ballot. They could come back right now and get this done or tackle it after the election. Voters have waited too long for our legislative leaders to do the right thing.”
Video Feed: You can watch the press conference online or on your mobile phone on Periscope. Search for and participate on Twitter with tweets about this event by using #Congresstoo