Posts Tagged 'Redistricting'

Ohio Supreme Court Overrules Challenge to Gerrymandered Districts in Split 4-3 decision

In a closely-divided decision, today the Ohio Supreme Court handed down an opinion that the three justices in the minority, including Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner, said was contrary to both Ohio’s Constitution and its own precedent, thereby highlighting the need for fundamental reform of Ohio’s reapportionment process.  Rep. Dennis Murray (D-Sandusky) stated that “the growing frustration that voters have today with the way in which the majority party cements its control one decade at a time through raw political control of the reapportionment process was also felt in 1947.  And in that year, Ohioans acted decisively to amend our Constitution to take partisan domination out of the process of drawing legislative maps.  In its place, the voters adopted a recipe that requires that certain steps be taken in a specified order, intending to stop the gerrymandering that Ohio witnessed last year.”

Three members of the Court essentially stated that the Court was abandoning its responsibility to ensure compliance with the Constitution regardless of political considerations, instead holding that the voters’ recipe could be followed in any order the majority wishes.  Rep. Murray notes, “that is exactly what the republican-controlled apportionment board did last year when they decided to bake the ingredients in the shape partisan domination before first following the rest of the recipe ordered by the voters.”

In contrast, the minority opinion penned by the Court’s longest-serving member, Justice Paul Pfeifer pointed out that the Constitution mandates “the precise succession of chronological steps” and that in deciding the case the way that it did, the Court rendered itself “a rubber stamp” instead of “the guardian of the constitution that it is designed to be.”  Justice Pfeifer also noted that his colleagues’ decision was founded on arguments that “fail the tests of logic and fairness.”

Rep. Murray stated that, “the decision today serves to underscore the fundamental need to reform the process by which legislative districts are created, so that voters pick their legislators instead of legislators picking their voters, not ensuring one party domination of the legislative process contrary to the popular vote.  That is what happened earlier this month when Republicans won an overwhelming number of House seats under their new maps, even though Ohio voters cast more votes in favor of Democratic House candidates.”  Rep. Murray is and will remain a member of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission and concluded that, “I look forward to continuing to serving the public in that role, as we look to tackle the systemic problems with Ohio government, chief among them being the way in which legislative maps are drawn.”

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Leader Budish’s Statement on Re-apportionment Lawsuit

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) released the following statement upon the 4-3 decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in the re-apportionment lawsuit.

“Today’s Ohio Supreme Court decision is a victory for partisan political gerrymandering and a significant loss for Ohio voters. The court’s narrow majority in its 4-3 decision simply legalized the process of putting political interest ahead of the preservation of communities of interest.  The Constitution clearly requires that the apportionment board minimize splits to counties, townships, cities and wards. The map that was adopted slices and dices governmental units 255 times, while alternative maps divided governmental units fewer than 100 times.

“The majority decision ignores the clear mandate of Article XI of the Constitution. Instead, the current legislative maps were drawn with the intent of maximizing political opportunity for one party. As a result, Republicans in the 2012 elections won a large majority in the House, while losing the statewide vote for state House candidates. This does not serve the broad interest of Ohio voters, instead it perpetuates a broken political system which will continue to favor extremism, not responsible governing.

“The court’s decision today points to the urgent need to adopt a new, fair system of redistricting.”

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House Dems Call on Legislative Leaders to Convene a Transparency Taskforce

State Reps. Ted Celeste (D- Grandview); Jay P. Goyal (D- Mansfield); Matt Lundy (D- Elyria); and Connie Pillich (D- Cincinnati) held a news conference to discuss the lack of transparency across government.  This comes after the release of a national report by the Center for Public Integrity in which Ohio received an overall grade of “D” for risk of corruption.

“We call on our legislative leaders today to take action and convene a special taskforce to review the current laws and enforcement practices and to take the necessary steps to correct problems, and ensure full accountability and transparency throughout government,” said Rep. Goyal.  “We have a responsibility to the people of Ohio and it is simply unacceptable for us to fail to ensure government is working for Ohioan’s best interest at all times, not for special interest or influences.”

The lawmakers sent a letter to legislative leaders today calling for them to convene a special bi-partisan taskforce to review the enforcement practices of current laws and consider new legislation to strengthen accountability and transparency across government.  The letter also calls for hearings on bills already introduced that address several of the areas covered in the report. A copy of the letter can be seen below.

There have been numerous concerns raised in recent weeks involving a lack of transparency and accountability inside and outside of government. Most recently state and federal law-enforcement officers have been called on to investigate potential quid pro quo dealings. 

“This Governor is determined to operate this state in the dark. We can never let that happen. If you have nothing to hide you should always want the process to be as open as possible,” said Rep. Lundy.  “As legislators we must take action to correct these problems immediately.”

Other instances include serious questions surrounding the state’s top independent watchdog, Inspector General Randy Meyer, and his ability to objectively investigate fraud and corruption.  These questions came to the forefront after Mr. Meyer participated in the most partisan of activities by headlining a GOP fundraiser.

“At a time when the people of Ohio feel Columbus and government are out of touch and unaccountable, the role of an independent Ohio Inspector General is more important than ever,” said Rep. Pillich. “It is simply unacceptable for Ohio to not address these ongoing issues of lack of transparency and possible corruption in our state government.”

“Ohio leads the nation in terms of political gerrymandering,” said Rep. Celeste.  “Last year’s attempt at redrawing statewide and Congressional boundaries was done in such a way to deliberately withhold information from the public about redistricting.  As elected officials who represent the best interests of our constituents, we should demand better from ourselves and from each other.”

Not surprisingly, Ohio received an “F” in the State Integrity Investigation for redistricting, legislative accountability, and lobbying disclosure.

A copy of the letter sent to legislative leaders can be seen below.

March 26, 2012

Dear Honorable Leaders of the Ohio General Assembly,

We write today with great concern over the recent ethics report from the State Integrity Investigation, in which Ohio received a “D” grade overall.  Among the various 14 categories in which Ohio was graded, we received only two grades higher than a “C-”. 

Specifically, Ohio received a “C-” for both public access to information and political financing; a “D-” for both executive and judicial accountability; and an “F” for redistricting, legislative accountability, and lobbying disclosure.

This situation is unacceptable, and needs to be dealt with.  Therefore, we are hereby calling upon the leaders of the Ohio General Assembly to create a bi-partisan taskforce to review the enforcement practices of current laws and consider new legislation to strengthen accountability and transparency.

Furthermore, each of us has already introduced legislation that would address many of the areas that received among the lowest of grades.  Thus far not one of these bills has received a single committee hearing.  Not only are these important bills not getting passed, but they are not even being considered and discussed.  Therefore, we are hereby calling on the following bills to be called up for committee hearings immediately upon the legislature’s return from spring recess: HBs 55, 113, 294, 413, 451 and HJR 5.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

Jay P. Goyal
State Representative
District 73
Connie Pillich
State Representative
District 28

Ted Celeste
State Representative
District 24

Matt Lundy
State Representative
District 57

C: Speaker William Batchelder, Senate President Thomas Niehaus, Minority Leader Armond Budish, Minority Leader Eric Kearny

MUST READS: House Dems Forge Redistricting Compromise

Newspapers around the state reacted to the redistricting compromise agreed to by House Democrats yesterday. Common themes included relief at the end of a “long, messy process” (Columbus Dispatch) marred by “political wrangling and voter confusion” (Toledo Blade).

“The pact… consolidates what would have been two primaries into one on March 6. Holding one primary will save taxpayers an estimated $15 million” notes Aaron Marshall of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

On a local level, several constituencies saw improvements over the previous redistricting map. “The city of Toledo will be represented by two members of the U.S. House instead of three,” says the Blade, while the Dayton Daily News observes that “A major change in the new map from one passed in September was putting all of Montgomery County in one congressional district.”

Read the full articles:

 “State will have one primary March 6,” Columbus Dispatch

Redrawn map puts Toledo in 2 districts instead of 3,” Toledo Blade

Ohio lawmakers reach deal on congressional redistricting and single primary election,” Cleveland Plain Dealer

State, with 16 new U.S. House districts, will have 1 primary next year,” Dayton Daily News

See also articles here and here.

Rep. Phillips Statement on Redistricting Agreement

Assistant Minority Whip Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) released the following statement on the compromise to reunite the primaries and end the redistricting standoff. The compromised redistricting plan makes some improvements to congressional districts, takes the first steps towards necessary long-term reform and saves taxpayers from footing a more than $15 million bill for two primaries.

“After months of tough negotiations, I’m glad that we were finally able to get to a resolution on the impasse created by majority Republicans hyper-partisan redistricting process. We were able to include the creation of a task force to take real steps towards redistricting reform, and to reunite Ohio’s 2012 primaries,” said Rep. Phillips. “The map is slightly better than the one originally proposed by majority Republicans, but still splits many communities. Last week’s report, indicating the secret meetings in the ‘bunker’ with Republican operatives and donors, make it plain that their goal was not to create fair districts that represent the people of Ohio, but to protect their political cronies.”

“At the end of the day, I felt that it was my responsibility to protect Ohio taxpayers by finding a way to clean up the mess caused by this flawed process,” Rep. Phillips emphasized. “Redistricting has been badly mismanaged, and I urge the Inspector General and the Legislative Inspector General to investigate these abuses of the process. In the meantime, in order to reduce confusion for the voters, take steps towards reform, and save scarce resources, we came to a compromise yesterday.”

House Dems Stop GOP from Wasting Millions on Two Primaries and End Redistricting Standoff

Assistant Minority Leader Matthew A. Szollosi (D-49-Toledo)

Ohio House Assistant Minority Leader Matthew A. Szollosi released the following statement on the compromise to reunite the primaries and end the redistricting standoff.  The compromised redistricting plan makes some improvements to congressional districts, takes the first steps towards necessary long-term reform and saves taxpayers from footing a more than $15 million bill for two primaries.

“This fight has been about giving Ohioans a voice in the redistricting process and force a meaningful debate. We have seen this year just how badly this process is in need of change and are pleased that part of the agreement will include the first steps towards a meaningful bi-partisan reform.

“Creating two primaries was fiscally irresponsible and would have cost the state millions in precious funds at a time when funding to education, police and fire, and local government is being slashed.  By reuniting the primaries, Democrats have prevented voter confusion, likely legal chaos and saved the state more than $15 million in taxpayer dollars.”

Ohio gerrymander another GOP overreach

The Toledo Blade’s weekend editorial “Ohio gerrymandering another GOP overreach” is exactly what is happening here in Ohio.   The Republicans have rammed through countless extreme bills with Gov. Kasich at the helm and there is no sign of them slowing down. 

The new congressional redistricting map introduced and passed through the House in less than 48 hours and the proposed GOP drawn legislative maps will likely only further the political dysfunction we see in Columbus and Washington.  Blade Editor Dave Kushma wrote, “…The Republican elected officials in the Statehouse who are redrawing the districts for Ohio’s U.S. House delegation and General Assembly have made clear that their priority is making their party even more dominant. Promoting fair, competitive, and effective representation of Ohio voters for the next decade — especially in our part of the state — isn’t their concern.”

Democratic voters are being quarantined into roughly a third of the legislative districts and four congressional seats.  The result being some group votes will count significantly more than others.   In this broad and diverse state this kind of gerrymandering “turns the notion of proportional representation into a sick joke.”

Kushma continues writing, “On this issue and too many others, Gov. John Kasich and GOP lawmakers have adopted an “in your face — we’ve got the votes” approach that defies opponents to do anything about their overreaching.

“They identified worthwhile changes to the state’s collective-bargaining process for public employees and included them in Senate Bill 5. But then, because they could, they larded the law with union-busting provisions that have nothing to do with saving money or running government more efficiently. That generated a ballot challenge in November.

“Similarly, GOP lawmakers passed an election “reform” law this year aimed at voter fraud that doesn’t exist. The real intent of the measure is to make it harder for folks who generally don’t vote Republican to vote at all.

“And now the map flap. Although the controversy over the new congressional districts has dominated the debate in Columbus, the state Apportionment Board plans to vote this week on new legislative districts.

…”

Read the full editorial here.


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