In 2012, there was a State Issue 1 that also dealt with voting districts. At the heart of the old issue was detailed criteria for voting districts that would have kept districts compact and ensured communities could not be split in order to accommodate a political whim of the majority party seeking to wipe out prevailing views of your neighborhood. We were begged to vote against the 2012 measure because they said it was too complicated and gave power to an unelected board (which was the point). They promised real reform if we voted down the measure. What we have 3 years later is the brand new Issue 1.
Issue 1 increases the State Apportionment Board from five to seven members, and requires a minimum of two minority party members are on the Board and approve of any state legislative districts for 10 years. So far, so good. If new districts do not earn two minority party votes, they could still go into effect, but only for 4 years, after which the process begins anew.
Issue 1 attempts to address gerrymandering – Board members “shall attempt to draw” districts fitting new requirements for keeping communities intact. However, there is a huge prize for whoever sits in the majority. For the minority, it will always be best to wait 4 years in hopes of becoming the majority so they can be in charge of picking your voters. The new criteria for district boundaries are laudable but lack teeth in any legal challenge. The incentive for both the majority and minority is to wheel-and-deal to their advantage rather than seek real fair districts for their constituents.
In the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, an elected official must reside in the district voting for them. If your lines are redrawn every 4 years, you are constantly threatened with being drawn-out of re-election if you don’t conform to the wishes of party leadership.
Issue 1 only affects state legislative districts and not Congressional ones. This sets-up the likelihood that either nothing will change with how Congressional districts are drawn, or an entirely different process will evolve for federal versus state apportionment. If this process is so good, why are we not being asked to amend the state constitution once and fix all our problems right now?
Voters are already jaded by hyper-partisanship and confused by the myriad district lines in their communities. Issue 1 makes it more likely that district lines will become more confusing, change separately for federal versus state districts, and change with more frequency.
The best case fielded for Issue 1 is that it is a modest improvement over the current system where the majority can run roughshod over the minority and impose their will by a simple vote. We disagree. As horrible as our current system is, we believe it is better than one that provides the illusion of progress. Lines that change more frequently encourage more partisanship, not less. And, there are great examples of how available technology can help to ensure objectively and mathematically fair districts as the basis for any new legislation. With this passage, a call for meaningful change for both state and Congressional apportionment is silenced for years to come as unethical dealings continue unabated and the individual voter sees her representation in Columbus pre-ordained by the party sequestering her neighborhood into a favorable slice of the voting population.
For these reasons, The Republican Liberty Caucus of Ohio urges a “No” vote on Issue 1.