Although marijuana legalization was the big news nationally for Ohio, the most important issue on the Tuesday, Nov. 3 ballot was one dealing with how districts are drawn throughout the state.
Voters overwhelming approved a measure that will remove much of the partisanship which shapes Ohio’s legislative districts. Although the approved measure only deals with state offices, it sets the stage for dealing with federal districts (shown in map).
What Issue 1 Will Do
Under the new process, an independent body — with representatives from both major parties — will have a say in how a district is drawn after each Census. In the past, both the Democrat and Republican parties abused the system by carving out districts designed to keep them in power. But, voters send a strong message rejecting this approach.
Why It Matters
A two-party system works only when both parties have an fair chance at winning an election or office. Whenever a political party bypasses that process, voters-at-large lose because large segments of voters have no voice.
This is painfully obvious for U.S. House of Representative districts in Ohio.
Even though in the last four presidential elections Ohioans have voted for a Republican twice (George W. Bush) and a Democrat twice (Barack Obama) — which suggests a fairly evenly divided state politically — 12 of the 16 U.S. House of Representatives are GOP due to the unethical manner in which the state is carved up. In Ohio’s 8th, where I live, former Congressman John Boehner was re-elected last November with 126,000 votes (out of 500,000 registered voters) despite the fact that southwest Ohio is home to several non-GOP sections — sections bypassed through gerrymandering.
This means, in a district like Ohio’s 8th, besides non-GOP voters having no voice in the political process of selecting their U.S. Congressman — voter apathy is a significant problem.
Ridding The Country Of Ultra-Radicalism
Another, often overlooked problem with gerrymandering, is it — as the Columbus Dispatch points out — “creates a system where incumbents have more fear of being challenged from the far flanks of their parties, causing them to govern in a more partisan manner.”
Former GOP House Speaker Tom DeLay was well aware of this issue and would threaten to ‘primary’ a congressman (endorse a new candidate to challenge the incumbent during the GOP primary) when a member of the House did not vote along party lines. In an odd twist, it is the gerrymandering endorsed and indirectly created by Boehner that pushed him out of office. This approach to elections gave the more conservative elements of the GOP a voice — a voice which would not have existed if the playing field between the two parties was level.
The Founding Fathers understood that opposing viewpoints were the backbone of the American political system and also knew that opposing parties must have an equal chance at running the country. Without a fair playing field, gridlock ensues, ultra-radical groups have a disproportionate amount of power, and the votes of too many average Americans are nullified.
Which is what we have today.
The Marijuana Question
- The overwhelming rejection of legalizing marijuana calls into question the validity of polls. Although 65 percent of Ohio voters rejected Issue 3, in the weeks leading up to Election Day several polls suggested the legislation would pass.
- Its failure to pass may be more an issue of protocol and not necessarily a repudiation of marijuana. As a 62-year-old supporter of legalized marijuana noted,
- “I can’t believe I voted ‘no’ when it was finally on the ballot,” said Marty Dvorchak of the northern Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield. “I think it’s ridiculous that marijuana is illegal. The war on drugs has been a failure. But I don’t think 10 people (growers) should have a monopoly.”
- Supporters of legalization promise they’ll be back with a revised plan.