Thursday, October 15, 2015

Vote No on Ohio Issue 1, 2015

Issue 1 is a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution which would change the apportionment process and rules for redistricting Ohio house and senate districts.

Issue 1 does nothing at all about the apportionment of congressional district seats.  This is where the vast majority of the gerrymandering occurs. 

Issue 1 takes the job of drawing the district lines out of the hands of the legislature and gives it to a new board called the “Ohio Redistricting Commission”.  I oppose this because, if at all possible, all of the laws of our state should be made by the legislature.  That is the definition of a republic, which is required by the U.S. Constitution.  Having said that, I realize that redistricting legislation is a special case that deserves special consideration.  It is legislation that must be enacted in order to preserve the state.  But the commission issue 1 describes should only be used as a last resort (that is, if the legislature fails to pass a redistricting bill).  But issue 1 would do the opposite, making the legislature’s choice the last resort.  If the amendment contained enough precise rules to virtually determine the drawing of the lines, then there would be no need to involve the legislature and a redistricting board would only be charged with finding the correct map.  For example, a provision could have been added to the amendment that would say that of all possible maps which satisfy the other redistricting rules, the one that has the least variation in district population is the one that must be used.  But this amendment has nothing like that.    

The “Ohio Redistricting Commission” would consist of the same members as the current Apportionment Board plus two members appointed by the minority party leaders in the House and Senate respectively.  I oppose the addition of these members because it grants a privilege that is based on party affiliation.  George Washington said in his farewell address that political parties are bad for America.  We should not do anything to encourage them.  The addition of these two extra members favors Republicans and Democrats and discriminates against third parties and independents.
The amendment contains language that says that a redistricting plan must not favor any particular political party.  Do you really think that the “Ohio Redistricting Commission” is going follow such a subjective provision as that even with two minority party members out of seven?  I oppose any law respecting political party for the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph.   The only way to prevent the lines from being drawn in a way that favors certain groups of people is to add more objective rules so that there is only one possible choice for how the lines can be drawn.  It is not necessary for any of these rules to take into account the party affiliation of voters.

The amendment contains language that says the districts must be compact.  It does not say how compact the districts must be in order for it to be an acceptable map.  I am in favor of compact districts, but the word “compact” is not defined in amendment and is therefore just as subjective as the concept of favoritism based on political party.  The amendment is not clear about which of these two objectives should have precedence in a case where both cannot be achieved.

The amendment cow-tows to the judiciary.  It contains language that basically says that if the court
(of competent jurisdiction) rules that it doesn’t like anything about this amendment, then we must disregard the parts that they don’t like even if they aren’t really unconstitutional.  The whole process would be subject to this scrutiny, not just what’s being changed by the amendment.  Remember, Jefferson said that the courts are not the final arbiters of the constitution.

The amendment contains basically the same constraints on the how the lines must be drawn in regards to existing boundaries of counties, cities and townships.  Issue 1 has some language that more precisely defines these rules and their order of precedence.  This is the only advantage I see in issue 1, but in my mind, it is far outweighed by all its disadvantages. 

Redistricting reform is needed, but issue 1 does not do what is really needed.

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