Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 3:32 PM
Ohio voters who say they are fed up with the current political system often find it’s difficult to change it. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reported yesterday, many people who study politics say it’s not as simple as voting incumbents out of office. They say you have to change the process for determining which areas are represented by which candidates. In the second of this two part series, Ingles explains attempts to change the overall process of determining how congressional and legislative districts are drawn have proven difficult.
Common Cause Ohio’s Catherine Turcer says voters who cast ballots in May party driven primaries actually have more say in the candidates who represent them than voters who go to the polls in November. She says it’s because of the way congressional and state legislative districts are drawn. Turcer says the outcome of last November’s election proves it.
“If you look at Ohio, every single congressional district tilts right or left. It tilts Democrat or it tilts Republican. Every single one of them,” she says. “And it was a perfect predictor. Every single district that tilted Republican ended up with a Republican elected official going to congress. Every one that tilted to a Democrat ended up with a Democrat going to congress.”
Right now, Turcer says districts are drawn in a way to heavily favor Republicans in most areas. But she says there are some areas where Democrats are heavily favored. Turcer says it’s simply not good when Statehouse legislators draw district lines that favor one party over another.
“If you create extreme districts, you create extreme legislators and you create extreme disfunction at the end of the day,” Turcer says.
Turcer says the more balanced a district is between Republicans and Democrats, the more likely moderate candidates will be elected. But she explains when districts are heavily tilted toward one party’s favor, the fight for the office in question takes place in the May primary rather than the November general election.
Republican State Senator Frank LaRose says it’s a problem.
“We need to have districts that better reflect the citizens of our country,” LaRose says. “The fact is most Americans aren’t weighed to the right or weighed to the left.”
LaRose wants to change the process for drawing district lines. And he’s not alone. He has bipartisan support for a bill that passed the Ohio Senate last year that would change the process. That legislation would require a panel made up of Democrats and Republicans to agree on district lines before a plan could be adopted.
Ohioans themselves have been asked to vote on changing this line drawing process before – the last time was last year. But each time, those ballot issues have failed. Democratic House Representative Mike Curtin says he thinks Ohioans actually want those changes….. but they don’t realize it.
“The general public’s understanding of the gerrymandering process is not very high so it’s a very challenging educational enterprise to get the general public up the learning curve to understand why they must demand reapportionment and redistricting reform,” Curtin says. “It takes a long time to explain why it’s such a critical element of solving this hyper-partisanship dilemma.”
So in other words, instead of focusing on voting politicians themselves out of office, Curtin and LaRose agree voters need to focus on changing the process for drawing districts lawmakers represent so that more independent minded candidates can be on the ballot in the first place.
Democrat Curtin supports redistricting reform that would redraw the maps now and put them in effect immediately. Republican LaRose says the rules for a new map drawing should be drawn immediately, but he doesn’t think new maps should be put in play before the 2020 census.
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