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Signatures sought to end gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is when parties manipulate the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor their party. Wooster residents and others throughout the state hope to put a measure on the ballot that would end the practice.

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Dedicated residents around the state have been asking for signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would end gerrymandering and make Ohio's electoral more democratic with actual voter demographics represented in Ohio's voting districts.
 
In order to make it as easy as possible for residents to sign, there will be a drive-thru petition signing on Saturday, Aug. 19 from 1-6 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Alice Noble Ice Arena parking lot in Wooster.
 
"Gerrymandering has been around since the early 1800s," said Wooster resident Kevin Barnet, who is involved in coordinating the petition drive. "Both political parties have used it to their advantage at one time or another."
 
Barnet explained the process of creating districts is connected with the United States census. "After the census, the house, senate and governor decide," Barnet said, "so if one party controls all three, they can draw the lines however they want."
 
These lines are often drawn to offer a political advantage to the party in power. This is usually accomplished by either diluting votes of the opposing party by creating a larger district in an area where the goal is to diminish the impact of voters or to geographically isolate the opposing votes into one district, leaving numerous other districts likely to vote together and negate any impact of the opposition district.
 
"Ohio is generally a swing state," Barnet said, "which means that it generally goes either way. So even though the people are split about 50/50 as to party, the house and senate are not."
 
As stated in the petition summary, the proposed amendment would require the redrawing of congressional districts to be conducted by the bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission, which was established in the state constitution and was approved by the voters in 2015.
 
This commission would further establish rules for drawing congressional districts including but not limited to rules related to prohibiting drawing districts to favor a political party or candidates, keeping communities whole by minimizing splitting of political subdivisions, maximizing statewide representational fairness, and minimizing the extent to which the population of districts are not equal.
 
The Supreme Court has stepped in to rule on issues regarding redistricting based on discrimination for race or ethnicity but up until June of this year has been reluctant to hear cases based on partisan redistricting. Arguments in the case of Gill v. Whitford are expected to be heard later in the year.
 
For Ohioans to get the issue on the ballot, approximately 306,000 signatures are needed statewide. "Wayne County's percent of that would be about 1,500," Barnet said. Right now around 300-400 signatures have been collected.
 
A wide variety of organizations all over the state are coming together to collect signatures. "So far [state-wide] we have collected 100,000 signatures," Barnet said. "Out of that, 30 percent have come from grassroots groups."
 
Barnet explained these groups account for a much lower percentage. "So the groups are really stepping up and taking this on," Barnet said.
 
This grassroots effort seems to indicate residents want fair districts. "I think that people want to believe in fairness," Barnet said. "And when they actually sit down and look past the partisan thing, they believe in fairness and want what's fair, and they are willing to sign."
 
Barnet has always been interested in politics but has never taken an active role before. "After the last election a lot of people who were sitting on the sidelines and letting others do the heavy lifting have come forward," Barnet said. "I felt I wanted to have more of a say in what's going on."
 
The Alice Noble Ice Arena is located at 851 Oldman Road. To sign, one just needs to be a registered Ohio voter.
 
People can simply drive up with no need to get out of the car. "We will come to the car, bring you the petition and answer any questions," Barnet said. "We are trying to make it as easy as possible."
 
Petitioners also may be found most Saturday mornings at the downtown Wooster Farmers' Market from 8-11 a.m. as well as Thursdays and Fridays at Wooster's gazebo from noon to 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.
 
Volunteers are needed to help with the petitioning. Anyone interested is invited to email Barnet at kevkatbar5@aol.com.
 
For more information on reforming Ohio's congressional districts, to circulate a petition or to find one in your area, go to www.fairdistrictsohio.org.
 

Published: August 11, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170809917