With 750,000 signatures now turned into Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office, Voters First Ohio — the coalition of good-government groups like the League of Women Voters seeking a constitutional amendment to change Ohio’s seriously messed-up system for drawing legislative and congressional districts — is confident that the amendment will be on the ballot this November.
385,000 valid signatures are required to take a constitutional amendment to voters; the group turned in its first batch of 450,000 by the July 3 deadline. Fortunately, they kept collecting, as allowed by law. Less than 300,000 of the signatures were found to be valid, due to things like duplications, unregistered voters signing, and inability to confirm a signer’s registration.
Today Voters First Ohio filed another 300,904 signatures with the Ohio secretary of state for a total of 750,000. It’s unlikely that enough signatures will be disqualified to prevent Ohioans having the opportunity to vote on the measure.
The amendment replaces the current system — in which a small group of elected officials draws district lines — with a nonpartisan citizens commission: four Democrats, four Republicans, and four independents or third-party members. Anyone who isn't an officeholder, party official, lobbyist or major donor can apply; members would be chosen by a panel of judges. The amendment provides guidelines requiring districts to be compact, contiguous, and as competitive as possible, and to not break up communities unnecessarily. That means the district that pitted Toledo's Marcy Kaptur against Cleveland's Dennis Kucinich wouldn't be legal. Maybe Dennis would mount a comeback!
Those against it — primarily those politicians and political operatives who drew the current crazy-quilt maps — are already ramping up their campaign to defeat it. Expect to hear a lot of ads wailing that Voters First Ohio wants to steal Ohioans’ right to vote for the people who draw the districts — the politicians who do it as an incidental part of their job. Their real beef? It cuts politicians out of the loop entirely.