Can politics be removed from the redistricting process? A lofty goal, but that is the inferred objective of Voters First, the group that initiated State Issue 2, the Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission Amendment. Voters First claims “people, not politicians” should control redistricting. (Click here) But, will Issue 2 actually infringe upon our liberty, instead of empowering citizens, as publicized?
It can be argued that our taxpayer dollars are being spent to oppose citizens at the ballot box, to remove Ohio voters from the redistricting debate. Taxpayer money, in the form of public employee union dues, is heavily funding Voters First, the group promoting Issue 2. It would seem logical to conclude that taxpayer dollars are funding the means to bypass voters in the political process. According to public records, Voters First is backed and endorsed by unions and left-leaning special interest groups, many from out-of-state. The money trail and endorsements give further insights.
So, what is Issue 2 really about?
Issue 2 is a ballot initiative that would amend the Ohio constitution, changing how Ohio redraws legislative districts every ten years. It creates a new, potentially costly, unaccountable bureaucracy. (Full Amendment here) Its passage would place a twelve member, presumably non-partisan, unelected citizen commission in charge of redrawing congressional and state legislative districts. The newly formed Commission appointees could not be removed by the state legislature or executive branch (Section 1 (C) 11), circumventing the elected representatives of the people, who are accountable to voters each election.
Protect Your Vote Ohio is the group opposed to State Issue 2. (More here) They assert that Issue 2 removes the influence of our vote and transfers control of redistricting to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, without budgetary constraints (Section 1 (D)), or means for removing them from office if need be.
If passed, responsibility for reapportionment would be transferred from the Apportionment Board to appointees of the Citizens Redistricting Commission. A bipartisan panel of eight Ohio Appeals Court judges will evaluate applicants for the twelve member redistricting commission. The judges would narrow the pool of applicants to 42 potential candidates. The amendment language stipulates that applicants have “a capacity for impartiality and who reflect the diversity of Ohio.”
Issue 2 could compromise judicial impartiality and politicize the judiciary. Judges, chosen by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, will be placed in the position of choosing candidates for the Citizens Commission, potentially subjecting judges to pressure by lobbyists and special interest groups. In the event the Citizens Commission cannot agree on a redistricting plan, the Ohio Supreme Court may potentially have to rule on a plan. (Sections 1(K) and 13 (A,B,C)) Conflict of interest could result if the court must rule on any potential litigation that may follow. Under this plan, the judiciary would be involved in the political process, thereby threatening separation of powers and jurisprudence.
Under the current system, Ohio voters have influence on redistricting through the election of their representatives. The Apportionment Board is responsible for redrawing district maps after each Census, every ten years. The Board is composed of the Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, and two members of the Ohio General Assembly, who cannot be of the same party. This guarantees at least one member of the minority party on the Board.
Elections do have consequences….remember 2010? The Republicans currently control the Apportionment Board. The Board is composed of Governor John Kasich, Auditor Dave Yost, Secretary of State Jon Husted, Senator Tom Niehaus, and Rep. Armond Budish (Click). Armond Budish is the only Democrat member. Democrats have little influence on the reapportionment process with the current Board.
There are strict guidelines for who may apply for the commission and many Ohio voters will not be eligible to serve on the Commission. Voters First “was created to take the power over drawing our congressional and legislative districts out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the people,” but does it really?
Issue 2 is backed by the League of Women Voters, unions, and left-leaning groups such as NARAL, Progress Ohio, and AFL-CIO. (List here) Do union bosses and special interests that support Issue 2 have Ohioans best interests in mind?
Issue 2 supporters claim to promote fairness in redrawing district lines, citing party politics and gerrymandering as the problem. In truth, both political parties take part in drawing legislative maps that favor incumbents and their own parties.
The current system is flawed, but the solution proposed in Issue 2 is unlikely to alleviate the problem. It merely changes the problem, shifting politics to different groups, chiefly the judicial branch and the newly appointed Citizen Commission. Should we believe Commission members and judges will not be politically influenced? Voters should be aware of unintended, or perhaps intended, consequences.
Issue 2 is thought to be modeled after California’s union backed redistricting amendment in 2010. (Click here) We can look to California to learn a few lessons about Democrats and how the amendment there has failed to remove politics from the process. Because Issue 2 is a constitutional amendment, changes or repeal would be difficult.
Some points about State Issue 2:
- Voters First is heavily backed by unions and groups outside Ohio. According to Media Trackers Ohio, only $26,371 in funding was donated by individuals in Ohio at the end of the June 30 reporting period. (Read more).
- Voters First campaign contributions received totaled $1,627,804, and $349,451 in-kind contributions as of the July 31 filing, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
- Ohio’s largest public employee unions have contributed heavily to Voters First. The Ohio Education Association (OEA) contributed $753,056. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) contributed $397,584. (Source: Media Trackers Ohio) The bottom line – 46% of funding came from OEA, 24% from AFSCME, as of July 31 campaign filing.
Click on the links below for more information on Issue 2:
- Ohio State Bar Association – “OSBA Releases Statement on Redistricting Amendment” (Read here)
- Ohio Judicial Conference – (Read here) and (here)
- Cleveland Plain Dealer – “Redistricting proposal undermines a constitutional principle, Ohio State Bar Association says” (Read here)
- Cleveland Plain Dealer – “Ohio redistricting plan mirrors California proposal that failed to remove politics from the process” (Read here)
- Crain’s Business Cleveland – “Crain’s Editorial: No on 2” (Read here)
- Columbus Dispatch – “A Step Backward: Redistricting Amendment Would Make It Even Harder to Track Map-Rigging (Read here)
- Media Trackers Ohio – “Voters First ” Union Power Grab is Nothing New for Ohio Voters” (Read here)
- Ohio Liberty Coalition – “Unions Are Heavily Involved with November “Voters First Ohio” Redistricting Ballot Initiative” (Read here)
Issue 2 Handout:
- Ohio Liberty Coalition – Free handout to combat Voters First Ohio Redistricting Amendment (Download here)
Do Ohioans really want to place redistricting in the hands of unelected bureaucrats who are unaccountable to the voters? Do we want to create another bloated bureaucracy? Can Ohio taxpayers afford it? Should the independence, fairness, and impartiality of the judicial branch be compromised? Redistricting is a political process. We cannot take partisan politics out of reapportionment with this amendment.
The current system may need reform, and there are other proposals on the table. Issue 2 is not the solution.
When voting, Issue 2 will likely be down ticket, near the bottom of the ballot. Please look for Issue 2 – and vote NO.