Blog post by the Stone Snowfake
Orginally posted on the blog, The Snowflake Chronicles: The Adventures of an Imperfect Activist
I did it! I collected signatures and I lived to tell! In this previous post, I described the Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio pre-petition plans. Well, they're here now. And I spent yesterday morning in front of my local library asking people to sign as they hustled by with kids and books tucked under their arms.
I'm not a shy person and I don't scare easily, but I don't mind telling you that I was really nervous. I hate asking people for things in real life. Even people I know well. (One of my least favorite parts of arts administration is seeking donors. Eesh.) And now I would be standing out there explaining a seriously complex issue to people who'd rather do something else. Anything else.
But now, here I was. Not only was I collecting signatures, but I had helped organize my Indivisible subgroup to do the same. I am now the proud owner of several earth-shaking spreadsheets detailing petition books, volunteer contact info, and daily assignments at local libraries. (Remember how I said ages ago that I didn't want to be a leader? Who am I? How did this happen?)
So, being an accidental leader of enthusiastic volunteers, I sorta had to go collect signatures. To me, this seemed like a bit of a sales job. And a bit theatre. So, I thought about my audience (I'm in a rural area) and I dressed the part... I donned my American flag rugby, my League of Women's Voters of Ohio pin (non-partisan and trusted) and packed my little kit.
Me: "Good morning! Are you registered to vote here in Ohio?"
If they said no, I'd say, "Good news! I can register you right now. It takes only a few minutes." Some would brush me off or ignore me, others said they were not from here, but I did register two folks!
If they said yes, I'd say, "Good for you! An active citizen. Care to take a few minutes to put an end to gerrymandering?"
Some said yes right away and didn't need any more encouraging. Others said they wanted to read the summary, but clearly had some background knowledge.
Most looked at me like I had spoken Swahili. I'd say, "Ha! I had the same look when someone said it to me. Now I don't feel so bad... if someone going to the library didn't know, I'm in good company. If you give me 60 seconds, I can help you understand."
At this point, people would usually laugh and come over. Or they'd say they'd get me on the way out. (And most did!) So I'd do the following spiel:
"Every Ohio district gets a representative. That rep is supposed to be your voice in the government. So how district lines get drawn is really important. The thing is, right now the people in charge of drawing those lines are the same people who are your reps. As a result, they can draw people who vote against them right out of the district. Here, take a look at the map. Can you guess which district is called The Snake By the Lake? Hint- it's by the lake... haha."
At this point they see it and I show them the border and how crazy it is. Then I ask them to look at the district that runs along the eastern edge of the state and ask how likely it is that the rep who serves that area really knows the unique needs of folks near the KY border versus those along the eastern edge. I finish by showing them the weirdness in the heart of Columbus.
Then I say, "Crazy, right? This petition isn't a bill or a law. You're simply telling the government that you want a chance to vote in August for a more fair and sensible way to draw lines. For one, this initiative states that districts must be geographically compact."
Most folks are ready to sign at that point. Others want to read the summary or talk about how crazy it is. Only one man read the summary and refused to sign, saying it was too vague.
I then talk them through the signature process on the overly complex form. I usually joke that even the official petitions are gerrymandered. Haha.
Finally, I either shake their hand or high five them and say, "Look at you, saving the world today! Thank you!"
Funniest moment? One person asked me, "Before I sign, I have to know. You're a registered voter. What are you registered as? Democrat or Republican?" I had to chuckle inside when I said with complete honesty, "I am a registered Republican." She high fived me and signed. (Read here how it is I accidentally became a Republican.) I did remind her that this is a bipartisan initiative. And that it already passed the state with over 71% bipartisan support.
So, if you're in Ohio- please look for a place to sign. And remember, this is the third version of the petition. If you signed before June, you need to sign this one. And please... be kind to those hard working folks collecting signatures!
A big thank you to all of the activists collecting signatures! Together, we can improve representational democracy.