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Ohio redistricting amendment moves forward, allows voters to draw district lines

The power is in the hands of the people, or at least it might be after the November election.

The group Voters First Initiative announced Monday that it had collected enough signatures to add its proposed constitutional amendment to the November ballot.

The proposal aims to put the process of redrawing congressional district lines in the hands of a 12-person committee made of Ohio citizens.

The group believes that the independent committee would cut back on gerrymandering, the process of drawing lines in favor of a particular political party.

Representatives from Voters First estimated that they had collected more than 700,000 signatures for the proposal by the midnight deadline on Saturday.

Voters First estimated the signatures to be submitted to the Ohio secretary of state’s office before Saturday’s midnight deadline would push the total number over 700,000.

According to a report from The Associated Press, earlier this month the group had fallen more than 130,000 signatures short of the 385,000 valid signatures needed to get on the November ballot.

According to the secretary of state’s office, the signatures should be counted and verified by Aug. 6.

The petition was created by Richard Gunther, a retired OSU political sciences professor, and Dan Tokaji, an OSU law professor, in conjunction with Voters First.

“Under our current system, almost everyone in the state house and Congress has a safe seat, which means that the election is essentially over after the primary … it doesn’t allow us to hold our representatives accountable,” Tokaji said.

This initiative dates back to 2006, but has more gained attention after a democratic district was lost in 2011 when lines were redrawn by Republicans.

“They (Republicans) were able to take advantage of the former system … It’s obvious they would draw lines that would favor them and discriminate against people not in their own parties,” Gunther said.

Gunther said congressional lines are manipulated by any party in power, and that Republicans just happened to have control when lines were redrawn.

“No matter who is doing it, we think it’s wrong and needs to be eliminated from the political process,” Gunther said.

While the signature count has not been verified, Tokaji is confident that Voters First met all requirements to get the amendment on the November ballot, and is already thinking about what it needs to do next to ensure success.

“The next phase of the campaign will be providing voters with information about the initiative, and countering the misinformation,” Tokaji said.

Gunther said in an email that the initiative has entailed “continuous work” since its start in 2006 by a coalition including “electoral law experts from the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Ohio Citizen Action, OSU and other good-government groups.”

Representatives from the Ohio Republican Party did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday.


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