On May 8, Ohio voters will decide whether or not to take the first step down the long road to a fair voting system. Ohio Issue 1, a proposed amendment that would allow a fairer redrawing of district lines, would be an electoral shakeup for the better.
Under the current voting system, Ohio is considered ‘gerrymandered’ – a fancy way of saying that the geographical lines that divide up congressional districts are unfairly drawn. If you were looking at an electoral map of the state for the first time, the shapes of the districts may seem random; but in fact it is quite the opposite. They are strategically drawn to limit the influence of Democratic voters.
After the last census was conducted in 2010, Republicans were the majority in the Ohio House, therefore they were in charge of drawing the congressional lines. Thanks to polling data at the time, republican lawmakers determined which areas have the highest percentage of Democratic voters. When drawing electoral lines, we have seen that more tangible and nucleated blue districts have been cut and separated to become parts of larger historically red districts. This tactic ensures Republican victories, even in areas where the population is relatively evenly divided.
To put this abuse into perspective, only about one-fourth of Ohio voters are registered Republicans. Yet for some reason, the GOP holds a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. Having that large of an advantage in a swing state should have been a red flag to Ohioans. This state voted for Barack Obama twice, but on paper it looks like we are as Republican a state as they come.
It is certainly no coincidence that the electoral lines favor those who drew them. What incentive does your average GOP lawmaker have to create a level playing field, when he/she knows that they could just as easily ensure their party’s success through unfair districts? If everything goes according to plan, Issue 1 should leave them no choice but to play fair.
Not only does this proposed amendment call for redistricting, but it also radically changes how we make the districts in the first place. Under the new system, redistricting would require support from a majority in each party, giving the minority party a defense mechanism against gerrymandering.
This referendum should not be a partisan issue. It’s about creating a system that is fair for the voters, not a system that helps either of the parties. Democrats should vote yes because doing so will help their voices be heard by lawmakers. And for Republicans out there reading this, wondering why they should support an amendment that helps the other side: if the political tables turn, and Democrats are the ones drawing the lines, you will want these protections in place. Trust me, it sucks not having them.
We the people will have a great opportunity to change the game this May. By creating a voting system that doesn’t allow lawmakers to abuse their redistricting powers, Issue 1 will ensure a fairer electoral process in our state for decades to come. So on May 8th, for the sake of democracy, go vote yes on Issue 1. Our system of government depends on it.
Stephen Sponhour is a sophomore studying communications studies at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. How has the new university policy affected you? Let Stephen know by tweeting him @s_sponhour.