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Issue 2 aims to combat gerrymandering in Ohio

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With the presidential election just days away, the candidates are making their last attempts to sway voters.

Overshadowed by the presidential choice are the other issues on the Ohio ballot, such as a proposal that aims to shake up how district and congressional lines are drawn.

One of those ballot check marks is Issue 2, a proposal to form a 12-person citizen committee to draw congressional and district lines, taking the power away from elected officials who, OSU political science professor Richard Gunther believes, are likely to draw the lines in favor of their political party.

Gunther, who has been in the forefront of getting Issue 2 on the ballot, said having the ability to redraw district lines gives politicians “a temptation to cheat,” and gives safe seats to incumbents.

“By having uncompetitive districts, it undermines the ability of voters to hold their elected officials accountable,” Gunther said.

He said if Issue 2 passes on Nov. 6, the 12-person citizens committee will be comprised of four republicans, four democrats and four independents or members of other parties.

Of the people that apply to be on the committee, the pool will be narrowed down to 14 people from each group, then the speaker of the Ohio House minority leader will be given the opportunity to veto up to three people in each pool, supposedly to eliminate people who are attempting to rig the system.

From there, the pool could potentially be brought down to 24 total applicants, and from there three from each group will be randomly selected. After those nine are selected, one person from each group will be added to the committee, a process which Gunther said is to ensure that the diversity of Ohio is represented.

Gunther said the way the Ohio district map is currently drawn is “grotesquely unfair,” with many counties broken into three or more districts, lines he say devalue the voice of those places in the state, and make it difficult for the area to have a community political voice.

Gunther, in conjunction with Dan Tokaji, an OSU law professor, and Voters First wrote the petition to get Issue 2 on the ballot this November.

When the ballot description for Issue 2 was written, Gunther said it was misleading and didn’t clearly explain what the initiative was.

proponents of Issue 2 brought their case before the Ohio Supreme Court, where they ruled the language had to be changed.

The new ballot language, approved by a Republican-controlled Ohio Ballot Board, is long and confusing, Gunther said.

Gunther thinks that biased line drawing means “Ohio is being cheated out of the right to elect their own representatives” some don’t think the Issue 2 proposal is the right answer to eliminating gerrymandering.

“Everyone agrees gerrymandering is bad. Issue 2 is not the way to fix it, Issue 2 makes it worse,” said Niraj Antani, communications director of the OSU College Republicans.

Antani said the committee will be composed of “unelected bureaucrats” that can’t be held accountable to the people of Ohio.

While he admitted change needs to happen, he said it should be a bipartisan effort.

Issue 2 has been opposed by the Ohio Republican Party who drew the current district lines, and a representative from Ohio Secretary of State Republican Jon Husted’s office did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday.

Antani said he doesn’t think the proposal “has a chance of passing at all” on Nov. 6.

President of the OSU College Democrats Mallory Kimble is an advocate of Issue 2.

“I feel its going to protect democracy in our state,” she said. “If you are about democracy and want your vote to matter, vote yes on Issue 2.”

Kimble said she thinks the issue has a good chance of passing on Election Day.

Gunther said Issue 2 advocates have been relying on volunteers and phone banking to promote the proposal in the final days leading up to the election.
 

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