Thursday, October 25, 2012

End gerrymandering: Vote Yes on Issue 2

What is this ghastly beast?

It's the original gerrymander, spawned in 1812 by politicians who drew creepy map shapes to pack the Massachusetts Senate with members of their party. Designer Elkanah Tisdale made a political cartoon of it and named it the gerrymander, after Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who signed the winged, salamander-like lizard into law.

Nothing's changed in 200 years. This freaky animal, Ohio's new 4th congressional district, was created by Republicans last year to guarantee a safe seat for first-term congressman Jim Jordan. Their Dr. Frankenstein scheming somehow links Elyria and Lima into one dodo-like bird. Sandusky is its eye. Sheffield and Elyria are its nose. Lima is the little spot in its tufted tail.

This third unnatural shape looks a lot like the Lake Erie Monster. But it's actually a congressional district slithering along the lakeshore. Stretched to a snakelike thinness, it links Toledo to Cleveland and pitted liberals Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich against each other in a to-the-death cage match. It's been named one of the five ugliest congressional districts in the nation.

When someone tells you not to vote for Issue 2, the ballot proposal to end gerrymandering in Ohio, ask yourself how much longer you want creatures like this to roam our state. When someone says it's a flawed proposal, ask yourself, what could possibly be more flawed than this system we have now?

Gerrymandering, a legal corruption, lets politicians pick their voters and create safe seats for their allies. Safe seats are usually filled by rabid partisans, not moderates, so gerrymandering leads to Congresses and state legislatures where compromise is rare.

Issue 2 would create a nonpartisan citizens' panel to draw the maps instead. Republicans are fighting Issue 2 and Democrats are for it because the current maps shamelessly favor Republicans. But both sides are to blame for gerrymandering. Democrats in the legislature cravenly abandoned their own redistricting reform idea a few years ago once they won an election and thought they'd have a chance to draw the lines.

You might think the press would oppose the political machines and fight to end gerrymandering, but no. Most of Ohio's big newspapers have come out against Issue 2.  (Here's the exception.)

Editorial pages get persnickety with ballot proposals. They'll usually come out against one if there's even a single thing they don't like in it. With Issue 2, the papers are upset that judges would help choose the redistricting panel. But who else can we trust to stand outside politics and pick people fairly?

The newspapers say the legislature should pass redistricting reforms instead. But that hasn't happened in 200 years.  That's what ballot proposals like Issue 2 are for: to go around the legislature when politicians preserve a corrupt system out of self-interest.  Are you willing to live with gerrymandering for another 10 years? Or 20? Or 200?

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