American democracy is in sorry shape. But it’s not only our politicians and their partisan bickering that is killing it — so is gerrymandering, the process that allows legislators to draw districts that guarantee their party an election win.
But on Tuesday one state fought back and went to the polls to consider a gerrymandering cure. That state was Ohio. In a landslide win for democracy , with a 71 percent to 29 percent vote, Ohio passed a constitution amendment to combat gerrymandering of the state’s legislative districts.
What does this all mean for Ohio voters now? With gerrymandering in their districts curtailed, voters in each party will have at least two seats on the state’s redistricting commission. And no legislative districts will be drawn to favor or disfavor a political party.
“Redistricting reform is one of the most important issues we can tackle,” said former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, a leading voting rights advocate. “Ohio voters sent a clear message today. They want districts to be fair and the winners to be determined by the voters.”
Over the years critics have said that partisan gerrymandering has protected one party’s power, creating 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.
Gerrymandering has become such a powerful tool for protecting incumbent politicians and parties that in heavily gerrymandered states, that many seats go uncontested in November elections. When whole states are gerrymandered, the will of the voters can be and is thwarted.
The passing of the new Ohio Redistricting Commission is good-government reform. Now it’s up to the remaining 49 states to do the same.
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