The people's choice amendement

From Senate bill 5 and the budget, to the Cleveland plan, it has become impossible to separate politics from education. Who represents us in Columbus is a critical as who sits on a local board of education. Making sure those in Columbus meet their constitutional obligations towards providing a quality public education is essential.

It's a job made more difficult, and perhaps impossible by the redistricting process that has produced State House and Senate districts that meander like snakes, dividing cities, townships and counties alike, in the desperate aim to carve out safe seats.

Politicians are choosing their voters. Creating their very own tenure system, many spend so much time railing against, safe from the democratic process and voter preferences

The process of creating safe, meandering districts this time around was especially seedy

A recently released trove of email messages from Ohio offers a rare inside glimpse into how it works.

The messages, sent from June to September, show collaboration between the national GOP and state Republicans to redraw Ohio’s maps and thus cement control of both the statehouse and a majority of congressional districts.

In one email, a Republican consultant working on redistricting for the state suggested that the new political maps could save the GOP “millions" of dollars in campaign funds by making districts safer for Republican candidates.

The maps, approved by the Republican-run state legislature in September, favor Republicans in 12 of Ohio’s 16 new congressional districts. And they strengthen the majority of likely Republican supporters in at least 17 state house districts, according to the mapping consultants' own calculations.

A report on this process revealed redistricting officials rented a downtown hotel room from July 17 to Oct. 15 to keep the map-drawing in a clandestine location. In emails, staffers referred to the hotel room as the “bunker” or “off site.”

Now an effort is underway to change this process to become transparent and fair. An amendment that would allow the people to choose their politicians - to put Voters First.

Step one of this initiative is to collect enough valid signatures to qualify for the November 2012 ballot. Time is short. In order to qualify for the election this fall, over 386,000 valid signatures from half (44) of Ohio’s 88 counties are needed, by July 4th. If you want to help you can go here.

Without a doubt, having competitive legislative districts will make legislators more accountable (something we know they like to legislate for others!) to cohesive communities and produce better, more civic minded policies that suit their constituents needs, not the needs of some special interests who flood the Columbus statehouse with campaign contributions.

If that all sounds good - get involved, today. Tomorrow we'll take a look at the history of redistricting initiatives.