(Represent.Us, by Josh Silver) The people of Ohio just passed an initiative to prevent gerrymandering in congressional districts – and it’s just the first in a huge wave of gerrymandering reforms that could pass this year.
Hold the phone… what did Ohio voters just pass?
Ohio voters passed a ballot initiative that fights gerrymandering in congressional districts.
Gerrymandering (aka, intentionally drawing districting lines to skew election results) is a major reason why Ohio’s elections are almost always uncompetitive. In 2016, no congressional race was closer than an 18-point margin.
That means before the election even starts, voters already know who’s going to win. And it makes it nearly impossible for voters to hold politicians accountable.
The initiative passed on Tuesday fights partisan gerrymandering (where politicians draw districts in a way that unfairly benefits their party) by:
- Forcing bipartisan agreement about where district lines are drawn.
- Requiring that district drawing happens publicly and with input from voters – not behind closed doors.
- Adding a rule to the Ohio constitution that districts cannot be drawn to favor or disfavor a political party or its incumbents.
Why the win in Ohio matters
The win in Ohio is a significant victory in the national fight to stop gerrymandering. Ohio is one of the most gerrymandered states in America – and if people can organize and pass a statewide law in Ohio, we can do it anywhere.
This victory didn’t happen overnight: it was hard-won by a huge coalition of anti-corruption volunteers, led by the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition.
Thousands of volunteers from the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition collected more than 200,000 signatures for a measure to fight gerrymandering – and the massive grassroots campaign pressured the legislature to put Issue 1 on the May 8th primary ballot.
Represent.Us members joined the coalition, hosting 23 phone banks to contact voters, joining forums, and reaching more than 100,000 people with a video about the problem of gerrymandering.
There are four other campaigns fighting gerrymandering that could pass this year in Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, and Utah – and the victory in Ohio is a promising sign for upcoming campaigns.
This is just the first of five statewide gerrymandering campaigns that could pass this year. Here’s a snapshot of the other four:
- In Michigan, thousands of volunteers in the Voters Not Politicians campaign gathered more than 425,000 signatures in less than four months to put a gerrymandering reform measure on the ballot this November.
- In Missouri, Represent.Us members joined volunteers and organizers in the Clean Missouri coalition to put gerrymandering reform on the ballot. Last Thursday, they submitted more than 345,000 signatures for a measure that will fix gerrymandering, ban lobbyist gifts to politicians, and increase transparency in state government.
- In Colorado, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a measure that would have a transparent and independent commission draw congressional and legislative lines, thanks to the hard bipartisan work of Fair Districts Colorado and People Not Politicians. The plan won unanimous support in the state Senate and House, and it will appear on the November ballot.
- In Utah, Better Boundaries submitted nearly 190,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative to create a non-partisan redistricting commission to draw legislative, congressional and school board district lines.
Represent.Us members are fighting hard to fuel these campaigns, and we’re working with partners in all of these states to make each and every one of these a win.
To support these efforts and learn more go to Represent.Us