Citizens Not Politicians Plans End To Gerrymandering

The League of Women Voters hosted a rally at Plate 21 on February 1 to promote the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment to end gerrymandering. A nonpartisan coalition wants to create a commission of citizens to draw fair districts using an open and transparent process. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Ohio’s Congressional district maps have been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court seven times, yet the last set of unconstitutional maps will be used when voters go to the polls throughout the 2024 election cycle, starting with primary elections on Tuesday, March 19.

In the fall, the Tuesday, November 5 Election Day ballot is also likely to include an amendment to end gerrymandering – the process of drawing electoral districts with the intention of influencing who gets elected.

Chanting, “End gerrymandering,” members of the League of Women Voters, Toledo Persists and other nonpartisan organizations gathered at Plate 21 in Toledo on February 1 to learn more about how the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment would ban lobbyists and politicians from the process of drawing district maps.

“We have been incensed about gerrymandering for decades,” said Ann Fabiszak-Payne, president of the Toledo-Lucas County chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV). 

A nonpartisan organization, the LWV registers voters, provides voter guides, hosts candidate forums and takes positions on issues that are important to democracy.

“The fight for the preservation of democracy is a constant,” Fabiszak-Payne said. “There will always be groups of people who believe rights should be limited for lots of reasons. Power – getting it and keeping it – is probably the biggest one, and one way to do that is in the cheating in the drawing of the legislative districts, or gerrymandering.”

Ohio is one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation, she said. For the past 40 years, LWV has worked with groups to end gerrymandering in efforts that have been shot down. This time is different, she added.

“The general population has had enough and recognizes it as a real threat to democracy. Our representative government should be just that. Politicians should not be able to pick their voters,” she said.

The Citizens Not Politicians Amendment and summary were filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and certified by the Ohio Ballot Board last fall. The 37-page summary outlines the process for drawing fair districts: replacing the current politician-dominated commission with a 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Committee (OCRC) that would include Democrat, Independent and Republican voters; including new constitutional language that requires commissioners be well-qualified and collectively from a representative cross-section of Ohio; banning recent or current political officeholders, those with strong political ties or lobbyists from drawing maps; requiring maps be drawn in an open process; and making it unconstitutional to draw maps that favor one party.

The amendment is supported by two former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justices – Republican Maureen O’Connor, who recommended a citizens’ redistricting commission in an opinion she wrote while serving as chief justice, and Democrat Yvette McGee Brown.

Fair district proponents throughout the state are collecting signatures to turn in by Wednesday, July 3 to qualify for the general election, said Trevor Martin, redistricting campaign coordinator for LWV Ohio. A total of 413,487 signatures from 44 counties are required, but the goal is to collect over 700,000 signatures from across the state. Martin, who drove up to the meeting from Columbus, said he’s seeking volunteers for signature collecting, event planning, validating signatures and getting the word out. So far, 2,500 volunteers have signed up through 170 area organizing leagues in 70 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

For information on how to sign or to volunteer, visit www.citizensnotpoliticians.org.

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