Toledo Blade Editorial:  Let citizens redistrict

Round two of Ohio’s battle between the people and the politicians has begun with the drive to abolish congressional and legislative districts drawn by elected officials.

The Blade Editorial Board has already concluded the politician driven system currently used in Ohio no longer has any credibility with citizens (“A better idea in Michigan,” Feb. 6).

Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, disgusted with districts ruled unconstitutional seven times for electoral advantage provided to majority Republicans, is leading Citizens Not Politicians, a coalition devoted to amending the state constitution to strip politicians of redistricting authority.

The 72-percent support for an anti-gerrymandering amendment in 2015 covering state legislative districts and the 75-percent vote for politically neutral congressional districts in 2018 did not deter the politician-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission from refusing to fulfill their mission in 2022.

Ms. O’Connor says the momentum from citizen rejection of state Issue 1 and the attempt to require a super-majority to amend the constitution will power the program to obtain 413,487 registered voters signatures to put a citizen-controlled alternative on the ballot in 2024.

The Citizens Not Politicians plan proposes redistricting controlled by a 15-person board comprised of five Republicans, five Democrats and five independents. Ex-office holders, lobbyists, and campaign contributors would be barred from selection.

The basic idea is similar to the process used in Michigan since 2018. Ten states use citizen commissions to draw congressional districts while 15 states make citizens responsible for their legislative districts.

The Ohio proposal simply follows the path of others who’ve lost faith in professional politicians.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission must reconvene to create new districts for 2024, as the boundaries for congressional and legislative seats used in the 2022 election are still ruled unconstitutional.

Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Republican lawmakers Rob McColley and Jeff LaRose and Democratic lawmakers Vernon Sykes and Allison Russo have one last chance to show Ohioans the current system can meet voter expectations. But there is nothing that can change the inherent conflict of interest of politicians personally affected by redistricting decisions. Ohioans don’t trust politicians, especially after the attempted power grab on the ballot as state Issue 1.

Gov. Mike DeWine appears to have gotten the message. Mr. DeWine told Gongwer News Service the governor and legislators do not belong on the redistricting commission.

Independent commissions have no motivation to protect or enhance personal power and deserve support for that reason.

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