© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Republicans: Commission Would Be "Taxation Without Representation"

The maps for Ohio’s Congressional and statehouse districts were drawn by elected officials, and last year, those maps resulted in lawsuits and a lengthy battle in the legislature that at one point created two primaries for 2012. The Voters First constitutional amendment would create a 12 member citizens’ commission that would draw the boundaries for state House and Senate districts as well as Congressional districts. Politicians, lobbyists and political donors wouldn’t be permitted to serve on that panel. Catherine Turcer is the chair of Voters First. "These people are held accountable to the constitution in the same way that elected officials are. And so they are given specific parameters like compactness and competitiveness. They are held accountable by the constitution in the same way that elected officials are," said Turcer. The Libertarian Party of Ohio has endorsed the proposal – perhaps in part because four members of the commission will be independents, and that could open the door to bringing libertarians into the map-drawing process. The other 8 seats on the commission would be divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are supportive of the plan – but it should be noted that the party has been in the majority in the Ohio House for only two years out of the past 17 years, and has been in the minority in the Senate for two decades. After the Congressional map were drawn last time in 2001, 11 Republicans and eight Democrats were elected. Now there are just 16 seats – and it’s thought they’ll be occupied by 12 Republicans and four Democrats. Chris Redfern is the chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. He says while the party is focused on electing its candidates, it supports changing the map drawing system. "The fact of the matter is that a fair districting process involving citizens takes power away from the hands of those that will reap more power if they control the pen." When asked about whether the proposal would strip power from Democrats when they're in power, Redfern said "Doesn’t that make sense? No, because I’m right on the issues." But the Ohio Republican Party has serious concerns. Spokesperson Izzy Santa notes that many of the groups involved in the Voters First campaign tend to be left-leaning and progressive. "Essentially, what liberal organizations are proposing is with this proposal is taxation without representation. Let’s create an unelected commission with unlimited access to taxpayer dollars to decide the way the maps are drawn in Ohio. And that is a very dangerous proposition," said Santa. And Santa adds that there is a bipartisan redistricting reform task force in the works in the legislature, and she says that’s the better way to go. "Liberal groups are saying this is the way we want it, and this is the way it’s going to be. And that does not give us any faith that they’re actually going to create a bipartisan task force in the future." Santa calls the Voters First amendment – using her words – "a convoluted mess of an idea for redistricting reform." Voters First chair Catherine Turcer responds this way: "You know what’s really simple? Having them go into their back rooms and draw lines to their own advantage. It takes a little more work to think about a citizens’ commission. But it’s not complicated." Santa says the Republican Party has also seen videos showing Voters First circulators signing up family members and out of state residents, and that leads her to suspect the signatures that have been gathered. Turcer says those signature gatherers who appear to not be following elections law have been fired, and that she’s confident the verification process will prove most of the coalition’s signatures are valid.