Slay the gerrymander: Vote Yes on Issue 1
Chances are you’ve been asked to sign a petition to stop the gerrymandering—drawing district lines to favor a candidate or party—of Ohio’s congressional districts. Spearheaded by the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition, this constitutional referendum effort culminated in successful negotiations with state legislators to put Ohio Issue 1—an alternative, but solid, solution—on the May 8 ballot.
Issue 1 has the full endorsement of the Fair Districts coalition (which includes the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause), the Democratic and Republican parties, and a growing list of organizations statewide.
The Ohio legislature's refusal to address gerrymandered congressional districts made the Fair Districts citizens’ referendum necessary. Since last June, volunteers across Ohio gathered more than 200,000 good signatures, nearly two-thirds the number required to put the proposal on the November 2018 ballot.
More than 40 volunteers from Cleveland Heights and University Heights collected close to one-third—about 12,000—of the signatures collected locally through efforts organized by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Greater Cleveland.
Thanks to this citizen groundswell, state legislators began working on their own proposal last fall. Their initial ideas were unsatisfactory and Fair Districts prepared to pull out of negotiations several times. Remarkably, the legislators kept coming back and a proposal emerged that all could support.
While the Fair Districts proposal called for a seven-member redistricting commission, the legislators felt strongly that the legislature draw the maps. Fair Districts agreed to this, as long as important safeguards were in place:
- Any 10-year map must have significant minority party support.
- Districts are compact, with limits on splitting communities.
- The process is transparent, requiring public hearings on any map before adoption and allowing members of the public to submit proposed maps.
If minority party support is unattainable, a map thus created requires additional standards:
- Specific prohibitions against gerrymandering.
- A requirement for written justification for the boundaries drawn.
Significantly, the Issue 1 solution, if passed, would come from Ohio’s voters and legislators, not a contentious court case. Buy-in from all sides would augur well for fighting gerrymandering in our state. LWV urges all to vote YES on Issue 1.
Maryann Barnes, a longtime resident, chairs the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland.