Voters’ Rights Group Claims To Have Enough Signatures…Again

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Members of "Voters First" gathered Monday, the same day they say they turned in another 400,000 petition signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office.(Photo: Jo Ingles, Ohio Public Radio)
Members of "Voters First" gathered Monday, the same day they say they turned in another 400,000 petition signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office.(Photo: Jo Ingles, Ohio Public Radio)

The group that wants to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot to allow Ohio voters to approve a new process for congressional and legislative redistricting thinks it will be successful.

But Ohio’s Republican Party is fiercely fighting that plan.

Opponents of the current method for drawing lines for congressional and statehouse districts have presented nearly 400,000 more petition signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

The groups needs close to 386,000 valid signatures, and only about 255,000 of the signatures the group had submitted earlier turned out to be deemed valid. If about 132,000 of the new signatures are ruled to be good, the group will be able to put the issue before voters.

But Izzy Santa with the Ohio Republican Party says she’s skeptical.

“Given all of the fraud they have committed with petition circulators, allowing family members to sign on behalf of others who aren’t present, we are very suspicious of the signatures they have submitted.”

Backers of the redistricting proposal say those incidents were isolated, involving just a few paid signature collectors. And, the group notes, those signatures were thrown out.

But even if enough of the new signatures are eventually certified, Santa doesn’t think Ohioans will want to vote for the plan.

“Voters essentially want accountability in their government and this proposal strips that by forming an unelected commission that doesn’t answer to anyone. And on top of that, it gives them a blank check. I don’t know how that’s good government by any means.”

But a backer of changing the current line drawing system, Dan Tokaji, says Santa’s complaints could easily be made about the current redistricting process that benefits the party in charge.

In this case, the Republicans.

“They talk about a blank check,” Tokaji says, “but the reality of it is that our politicians and their cronies spent almost 10 thousand dollars reserving a secret hotel room almost right next to where we are standing now so that no one could see who is going in and out.

“They paid 210,000 dollars off the books to two of their staffers off the books so that they could draw their maps in the secret bunker.”

Tokaji says Republicans don’t like this proposed change because politicians could no longer rule the process.

“We’ve already seen the opposition use confusion to try to muck things up. But we are confident our simple and clear message will get through. This is about putting power where it belongs in the hands of we the people, taking it away from politicians and their cronies. That is what the voters first initiative is all about.”

It’s believed that the current maps give Republicans a big advantage in congressional races, with 12 of the 16 districts drawn in a way that the districts will likely go for GOP candidates.

In legislative races, it’s expected the lines are drawn in a way that will let the current Republican majority in the Statehouse retain control for the next decade.

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