We can finally end gerrymandering in Ohio

As the State of Ohio policy advocate for the National Council of Jewish Women, my volunteer role is to assist our members in creating relationships with our elected officials so those officials hear from and understand their constituents’ positions on proposed legislation.

Fairness in elections is a critical part of our democracy and an issue of high importance. Elections are supposed to be about determining the will of the people.

Over 70 percent of Ohio voters believe in fairness in elections. That is why Ohioans voted twice to put fair voting districts into our state constitution.

However, the politicians on the redistricting commission who were tasked with creating the fair maps refused to follow the will of their constituents. They created such partisan gerrymandered maps that the Ohio Supreme Court rejected them seven times.

Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing political boundaries that benefit politicians over people and that help them stay in power.

There was no mechanism to fix the voting commission, so the non-partisan group Citizens Not Politicians created the fix — a ballot initiative.

In the State of Ohio, we have a ballot initiative that has gotten enough signatures of registered voters to go before the electorate in November.

What will it do?

• It will amend the Ohio Constitution to change the redistricting commission from elected officials whose jobs may be affected by the maps to a 15-person citizen commission.

• The citizen commission will be comprised of 15 people from across the state and include Democrats, Republicans and Independents. They will be tasked with creating the fair maps in a transparent manner.

Will this work? It has in other states, like Michigan.

According to votersnotpoliticians.com, fair maps have made all the difference. When district lines were drawn by an independent citizens’ commission — and not wired by politicians to select winners and losers before anyone casts a vote — the candidates won in a way that represented the parties for which the people voted.

In Ohio, where about 55 percent of voters vote Republican and about 45 percent vote for Democrats, partisan gerrymandering has created a statehouse with 79 percent Republicans in the Senate and 66 percent in the House of Representatives. These are supermajorities that don’t represent Ohioans.

Partisan gerrymandering isn’t good for anyone. Democracy works best when voters choose their politicians, not the other way around. That makes the politicians responsive to their constituents.

This is why 90 organizations from around the State of Ohio have endorsed this ballot measure, including labor, teachers, 501(c)(3) organizations like the National Council of Jewish Women and the League of Women Voters and many others.

Two retired Ohio Supreme Court justices are leading the campaign: Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, and Yvette McGee Brown, a Democrat.

Ohioans now have the power to make politicians listen to their will. However, it will require everyone to do one very important thing: Vote in the Nov. 7 election.

Our democracy depends on it.

Guest columnist Karin F. Schleifer is a practicing commercial real estate and business attorney who has been involved in grassroots political initiatives since returning to Cleveland after law school. Her passion for politics began after having spent a week in Washington D.C. during her senior year at Orange High School as part of “Close Up,”a high school government studies program. Karin strongly believes everyone’s vote matters and can make a difference.

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