Monday, May 21, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns


Issue 2 is the wrong way to draw political maps




Ohioans have a long his­tory of elect­ing the peo­ple who make ma­jor po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions on our be­half. That en­cour­ages pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity: If we do not like the de­ci­sions, we can elect new peo­ple to of­fice.

Is­sue 2 on Tues­day’s bal­lot vi­o­lates that ba­sic tra­di­tion. Although we need to re­form the way we draw our con­gres­sio­nal and leg­is­la­tive dis­tricts, ap­proval of Is­sue 2 would be a step back­ward.

Re­dis­trict­ing oc­curs ev­ery 10 years af­ter the U.S. Cen­sus. In Ohio, the state Ap­por­tion­ment Board — the gov­er­nor, the state au­di­tor, the sec­re­tary of state, and two leg­is­la­tive lead­ers — draws leg­is­la­tive dis­tricts. The Gen­eral As­sem­bly draws U.S. House dis­tricts. All of these of­fi­cials are pop­u­larly elected.

My party drew the cur­rent maps. I think they are flawed. Po­lit­i­cal maps are the prod­uct of the re­dis­trict­ing pro­cess. If you fo­cus on a bet­ter pro­cess — add­ing ac­count­abil­ity and trans­par­ency, and forc­ing bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mise — you will get more fairly drawn dis­tricts. Is­sue 2 in­cludes none of these in­gre­di­ents.

As a state law­maker, I have sup­ported sev­eral re­dis­trict­ing re­form pro­pos­als. One would have elim­i­nated sin­gle-party con­trol of the re­dis­trict­ing pro­cess and re­quired bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mise. Be­cause nei­ther Dem­o­crats nor Re­pub­li­cans would have had an ad­van­tage in draw­ing leg­is­la­tive lines, dis­tricts would be evenly bal­anced and de­ci­sion mak­ers would be ac­count­able to vot­ers.

By con­trast, Is­sue 2 would re­move elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the re­dis­trict­ing pro­cess. It would sub­sti­tute an un­elected com­mis­sion and cre­ate a per­ma­nent new gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy that, by de­sign, would be un­ac­count­able to Ohio­ans.

Worse, Is­sue 2 would un­wisely draw Ohio’s judges into a highly charged po­lit­i­cal pro­cess. The pros­pect of po­lit­i­ciz­ing the ju­di­ciary has caused the non­par­ti­san Ohio State Bar As­so­ci­a­tion and Ohio Ju­di­cial Con­fer­ence to op­pose Is­sue 2.

The ar­gu­ment by sup­port­ers that Is­sue 2 will re­move pol­i­tics from the re­dis­trict­ing pro­cess is naïve. It would sim­ply change the fo­cus of the pol­i­tics to the ap­pel­late court judges who would ap­point the mem­bers of the re­dis­trict­ing com­mis­sion. That would place enor­mous new pres­sure on these judges.

The mem­bers of the com­mis­sion, by vir­tue of their ap­point­ment, will be­come pol­i­ti­cians who can bro­ker their power in ways that may not be in the best in­ter­est of our state. Yet they will never face Ohio vot­ers.

Some peo­ple may think that, as an elected of­fi­cial, I have ul­te­rior mo­tives in op­pos­ing Is­sue 2. Yet I am not run­ning for re-elec­tion this year, and I may never seek pub­lic of­fice again.

One of the great re­grets of my time in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly is that we did not en­act mean­ing­ful re­dis­trict­ing re­form. But Is­sue 2 would not im­prove re­dis­trict­ing. It would make the pro­cess even worse — if that’s pos­si­ble — and would com­pro­mise the in­de­pen­dence of Ohio’s ju­di­ciary.

Although work on bi­par­ti­san re­dis­trict­ing re­form must con­tinue, Is­sue 2 de­serves a no vote.

Re­pub­li­can Mark Wag­oner of Ot­tawa Hills rep­resents Dis­trict 2 in the Ohio Senate.

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