Losing Sway

If the Yes On 2 campaign is truly about anything, it is about who has the most sway over who represents us. Few would argue that it should be the voters themselves, little surpise then that the Yes On Issue 2 campaign calls itself Voters First.

In reality, voters have the least sway over who gets to represent them. This is demonstrated with 2 very simple examples.

Example 1, Jim Renacci: The 13 minute Man

We know that our Republican politicians gerrymandered state legislative and Congressional districts behind closed doors, in a hotel room nicknamed “the bunker,” intentionally hiding the process from the public. These actions make many citizens wonder what exactly occurred in that room to cause their legislators to be so secretive.

A member of Speaker Boehner’s staff, Tom Whatman, sent an e-mail to NRCC staffer Adam Kinciad, and others in charge of drawing the new districts, requesting a last minute change to District 16 by adding a large business. Then, within 13 minutes of the first e-mail, the NRCC staffers had already responded that Timken would now be in Renacci’s district, no problem, no questions asked.

In our second example, Urban Voters Lose Out in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District

So how can someone like Steve Chabot, so seemingly wrapped up in suburban identity politics, be the Congressional Rep for a district that includes a major city like Cincinnati? This happens through a combination of gerrymandering, overt discriminatory voting policies, the overall loss of 2 Congressional Districts statewide, and shrinking populations in Ohio’s cities. Check out what Ohio’s Republican state legislature and governor have done to Ohio’s First Congressional District over the years… the graphic below shows where in the congressional redistricting based on Census 2010, the Republican state legislature went completely out of their way to tack on the staunchly Republican Warren County to the 1st District, and in the process, further weakening the voice of Cincinnati’s residents in speaking up for their share of federally-funded projects (this boundary will go into effect beginning with the 113th Congress starting in 2013).

Clearly, just from these 2 example, of which there are many more, our redistricting process is broken. We have waited year after year for politicians in Columbus to fix this rigged system, but they have failed us. Now we have an opportunity to fix the system ourselves, by voting Yes On Issue 2.

Voters First’s proposal will create an Independent Citizens Commission. Politicians, lobbyists and political insiders are prohibited from serving on the commission. The Commission’s work will be open and it will be accountable to the public. The Commission will empower voters to choose their politicians instead of politicians picking their voters.

  • Citizens, Not Politicians. Instead of the current procedures (in which politicians draw district boundaries that unfairly favor their own party and/or protect incumbents), a 12-member Citizens Commission will create the districts. Any member of the public can submit a plan for consideration.
  • Openness and Transparency. All meetings, records, communications and draft plans of the Commission must be open to the public. No more backroom deals.
  • Balance and Impartiality. The Citizens Commission will include equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and the approval of at least seven of the twelve members of the commission will be required for the adoption of any plan. This will ensure that the final plan fairly represents all Ohioans, not just those currently in power.
  • Community Representation. Districts will be created that are geographically compact, and which minimize the division of counties, townships, municipalities and wards between different districts.
  • Accountability & Competitive Districts. Politically balanced districts will be created, rather than “safe districts” which make it difficult or impossible for voters to hold elected officials accountable.
  • Fairness. To the greatest extent possible, the share of districts leaning toward a party will reflect the political preferences of the voters of Ohio.

Click here to view the summary of the ballot language

Voters First - Issue 2 - ballot language

The Ohio ballot board, in a partisan split decision chose the following as the language that will appear as Issue 2 (Voters First) on the November 6th ballot.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment
Proposed by Initiative Petition
To add and repeal language in Section l,3,4,6,7,9 and 13 of Article XI, repeal Sections 8 and 14 of Article XI, and add a new Section 16 to Article XI of the Constitution of the State of Ohio

A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.

The proposed amendment would:

1. Remove the authority of elected representatives and grant new authority to appointed officials to establish congressional and state legislative district lines.

2. Create a state funded commission of appointed individuals from a limited pool of applicants to replace the aforementioned. The Commission will consist of 12 members as follows: four affiliated with the largest political party, four affiliated with the second largest political party and four not affiliated with either of the two largest political parties. Affirmative votes of 7 of 12 members are needed to select a plan.

3. Require new legislative and congressional districts be immediately established by the Commission to replace the most recent districts adopted by elected representatives, which districts shall not be challenged except by court order until the next federal decennial census and apportionment. In the event the Commission is not able to determine a plan by October 1, the Ohio Supreme Court would need to adopt a plan from all the plans submitted to the Commission.

4. Change the standards and requirements in the Constitution for drawing legislative and congressional districts.

5. Mandate the General Assembly to appropriate all funds as determined by the Commission including, but not be limited to, compensating:
1. Staff
2. Consultants
3. Legal counsel
4. Commision members

If approved, the amendment will be effective thirty days after the election.


Voters first has filed a lawsuit, claiming the ballot language is incomplete

The wording, for example, omits any references to requirements that the commission draw fair districts that reflect the political preferences of Ohio voters.

The ballot language "does not properly identify the substance of the proposal to be voted upon" and was written "to mislead, deceive or defraud the voters," the lawsuit says.

A summary of the initiative can be read, here.

Top reasons to take power out of the hands of the politicians

Or why the Voters First initiative is so important

  1. Ohio’s new Congressional Districts now look like they were drawn using an Etch-A-Sketch.
  2. Ohio’s new 9th Congressional District is so narrow that with a good long jump you could leap right over it — from the 4th District, right in to Lake Erie.
  3. The mapmakers put The Ohio State University and Ohio University in the same Congressional District instead of the NCAA Elite 8.
  4. Tax-payers had to foot the bill for a fancy hotel room[1] — the politicians called “The Bunker” — so the mapmakers could have more privacy to gerrymander Ohio’s new Congressional and State Legislative districts.[2]
  5. The mapmakers came up with a brand new criteria for redistricting called, ‘Save Our Politicians Millions in Future Campaign Spending.’ [3]
  6. Partisan operatives got $150,000 to help draw the maps.[4] Ohio’s voters got the shaft.
  7. Mapmakers ignored public input and protected their own political interests. Their efforts made a mockery of public redistricting hearings held across the state.
  8. Congressional districts were rigged so that most U.S. Representatives were selected during the Primary, robbing millions of General Election voters of a voice. [5]

To find out more, please visit Voters First Ohio.

[1] Map-makers worked in Room 601 of the Double Tree Guest Suites, The Elephant in the Room, Appendix p. 31-34

[2] Apportionment Board Secretary Ray DiRossi’s August 16, 2011 email at 9:53am noted, “I’m free all day today at the Bunker,” The Elephant in the Room, Appendix p. 35

[3] Ohio House Speaker’s Chief of Staff Troy Judy provided Ray DiRossi with an analysis which ranked the top Ohio House Districts for the amount of in-kind campaign support provide by the Republican Party or caucuses. DiRoss replied, “But we have made significant improvements to many HD on this list. Hopefully, saving millions over the coming years,” The Elephant in the Room, Appendix 106-107.

[4] Both Apportionment Board Secretaries received contracts for $75,000 for map-making. Each received an additional $30,000 for their work during litigation, Elephant in the Room, Appendix pp. 41-46.

[5] Partisan indexing based on the results of the following statewide races: 2008 – President, 2010 – Governor, Auditor, and Secretary of State project no highly or heavily competitive Congressional races in 2012.

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.

Santorum spread thin in Ohio

We have previuosly covered some of the (evolving) positions on education of the Republican Presidential candidates, but with the Super Tuesday primary tomorrow in Ohio, we thought we'd take a look at the current state of play. Current polling averages have a very tight race: Mitt Romney at 36.2%, Rick Santorum at 36.1% and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear with 16.1%.

Of course, even if Rick Santorum does win the popular vote in Ohio tomorrow, things aren't quite so simple.

Rick Santorum still holds a slim lead over Mitt Romney in the latest Ohio polls, but win or lose on Tuesday, the results of the primary are almost certainly going to give way to an ugly fight over delegates that has the potential to last for weeks.

Santorum failed to submit the required paperwork in three of the state’s congressional districts to be eligible to win any delegates and only partial paperwork in six other districts. And it’s in those six where things start to get complicated.

The former Pennsylvania senator’s campaign needed to come up with at least three names in each of the state’s 16 congressional districts for full delegate eligibility, but his failure submit full slates in some places will result in “unbound” delegates, which will be up for grabs after Super Tuesday.

Take the state’s fourth congressional district, for example. There Santorum submitted the name of one delegate, but left two other lines blank. If Santorum were to win the district, the state party would award him one delegate with the other two remaining officially un-allocated.

Rick Santorum faces other problems too. Santorum has some old fashioned ideas about education, and by old fashioned we mean pre-1785. Even Fox news, bastion of far right reporting, began to notice how extreme, and in some cases, hypocritical his positions have become.

Reporting from Bowling Green, Ohio -- Rick Santorum repeatedly fumbled on Sunday morning, with statements from his 2006 Senate campaign contradicting his current views on No Child Left Behind and placing him squarely in agreement with President Obama's call for post-high-school education or training.

On "No Child Left Behind," President Bush's signature education reform law that is now deeply unpopular among GOP voters, Santorum told Fox News' Chris Wallace that he voted for it because he supported increased testing provisions for schools, but did not like the increased spending.

Wallace highlighted a statement on Santorum's 2006 reelection website that noted Santorum's support for the act and called it "the most historic legislative initiative enhancing education opportunities to pass Congress in decades." Wallace also noted that Santorum later said he "took one for the team" in voting for the act, and Santorum denied making such a statement.
Santorum backed down over a statement he made recently that called President Obama a "snob" for saying all Americans should attend college. Wallace noted there was no evidence that the president had made such a statement, and rather had called on all Americans to do something after finishing high school, whether college, vocational training or an apprenticeship, a statement similar to what Santorum has said.

Close in the polls, lacking delegates, and attacked by the Republican party media machine, Rich Santorum is spread very thin in Ohio, and elsewhere.