This November, Ohioans will have a chance to make a fundamental change in the way elections are operated in the state. From donation limits, to independent redistricting, to “no-excuse” absentee balloting, and to removing politics from the administration of election, the four proposed constitutional amendments would try to make up for the joke of an election the state had in 2004 when we joined Florida as a laughing stock of the nation.
Of course the Republicans are against it as it might threaten their 10 year hold on the legislature and state elective offices as well as the number of the GOP sent to Congress.
Issue 2 would allow Ohioans to vote early or to vote by mail, ensuring easy access to elections. Issue 3 would put tough limits on campaign contributions, reducing the influence of money in politics. Issue 4 would create an independent redistricting commission to take the power to draw legislative districts out of the hands of partisan lawmakers. Issue 5 would remove partisan politicians from the administration of state elections.
Issue 4 is the most controversial.
Currently a panel made up of legislators draw districts after each census. Since how the districts are drawn can influence who gets elected and who doesn’t, the party in power tries to make as many districts “safe” for their candidate and protects their “majority” in the state house. They draw them in such away to remove the possibility of any serious competition by stocking the district with their party faithful. Since the party in power stocks the district it is near impossible for a candidate from another party to get elected.
With these “safe” seats the people in the district have little or no say on which candidate they can vote on as that is decided behind close doors.
In some cases, a current legislator is “promoted” to a state wide office or agency. That person then resigns their district seat and their party’s central committee appoints a person to fill the seat until the next election, then it being a “safe” seat, it amounts to the committee choosing who will be the representative for years to come with no input from the voters he/she are suppose to represent.
Issue 4 would stop the politicians from drawing their own legislative districts and puts an Independent Commission in charge of this process. It would return accountability to voters where it belongs.
In 2002, the nearby village of New Rome was in the news because of the undemocratic operation of the village council. It had not even bothered with elections they simply “reappointed themselves.” Half of the council members were found not to be in office legally. Even though there was a general lack of interest, from the residents, in the council positions, the state still passed a law that allowed it to force the town of 60 to go out of business.
If state legislators find the operation of New Rome to be so abhorrent to the principles of democracy that they passed a law to close it down, then it makes one wonder why they seem to be against protecting the same principles when they are subverted on the state level with created “safe” seats.
“Statewide election proposals fare well” – Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch – 10/01/05