The agenda of the current general assembly and Governor John Kasich is proving to be really, really unpopular. The Ohio Democratic Party announced today that it is launching an unprecedented third repeal referendum petition drive since May. Following the successful campaigns to place SB 5, which limits union collective bargaining, and HB 194, which creates dozens of new voting restrictions, on the ballot, fair-elections advocates will attempt to collect another 231,000 valid signatures before December 26 to repeal HB 319, the new congressional district map.
After holding hearings across the state and giving lip service to public input, Republican legislators produced a surprise map that they rushed to a vote in 48 hours, leaving no time for study and comment. They drew a map to give themselves an outsized 3-1 advantage despite the state’s nearly even partisan split.
Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern said, “Every petition circulator will be given a copy of the map proposed by the Republicans in order to show that map to potential signers. We have no doubt that once Ohioans see for themselves just how ridiculous this map is, that they will not hesitate to help us stop the map from being adopted.”
No doubt. The map splits most of the state’s urban areas into three or four pieces, puts Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur and Cleveland’s Dennis Kucinich in the same district linked at one point only by the Sandusky Bay Bridge, and draws a narrow corridor from the east side of Cuyahoga County through Broadview Heights, Richfield and Bath to scoop up Akron’s minority neighborhoods. And it creates a sprawling, amorphous district for Republican Columbus-area Congressman Steve Stivers that was described by the Columbus Dispatch as “933 miles in circumference across 13 counties, shaped like the open jaws of an alligator.”
Petitions will be shipped out to volunteers this week. The Ohio Democratic Party also plans to hire a professional petition-circulating company.
“We want the Republicans [in the legislature] to sit down and draw some new maps,” says ODP communications director Seth Bringman. “The ball is in their court now. Unless they come up with something fair, we’re not going to withdraw the referendum.” — Anastasia Pantsios