Updated: Jun 27
By Regi Taylor, Content Writer
With Ohio’s Primary Election Day scarcely 5 weeks away, May 3rd, and the voter registration deadline roughly one week, April 4th, Jasmine Coaston, Vice President of Government and Community Affairs at ULGSO's Center for Social Justice addressed the critical if not uncertain issue of Redistricting with her guest panelists, Jeniece Brock, Policy and Advocacy Director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and Joe Mallory, President of the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP.
The unsettled matter of voter-district boundary lines that conform to the ruling of the Ohio Supreme Court to redraw them fairly after rejecting the previous two as unacceptable, against looming dates for registering and voting, were front-and-center among the panel's discussion priorities.
Mr. Mallory, ten years with the NAACP, and a current board member of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, where he was a former twenty-year employee, led off the conversation with a brief overview of how "every 10 years the census determines the redrawing of lines that are supposed to evenly divide the population into voting districts', explaining that "in 2015 and 2018 Ohio citizens voted for a constitutional amendment to change the way district maps are drawn."
Ms. Brock weighed-in to elaborate by explaining that 'the percentage of votes in current Ohio elections are 54% majority party and 46% minority, meaning the distribution of the voting districts should reflect those [same] numbers.
As evidence, she continued, "we at the commission were able to draw maps for the house, senate, and congress that [accurately] achieved those vote shares demonstrating that this was possible," proving the Redistricting commission has the tools and the wherewithal to make sure all Ohioans are fairly represented.
Jasmine asked, "Joe, why did the Ohio Supreme Court get involved and what does that mean?" "'The redistricting commission was supposed work with the opposing party to draw fair districts through a transparent process, instead one party controlled the entire process with no input from the minority party and when the maps were redrawn unfairly the Supreme Court sent the commission back to the drawing board to reconfigure fair maps."
On March 16, 2022, for the third time, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the third set of Ohio Statehouse district maps, declaring them unconstitutional, and sent them back for a fourth try as final ballots are being prepared for the imminent May 3 primary.
Jeniece Brock pointed out, as a practical matter with profound implications, how "some [candidates] aren't sure if the district their running in will be geographically the same [district] at election time,making campaigning and addressing local issues very difficult," and potentially disenfranchising voters who've committed to a candidate that may be removed to a different district when lines are redrawn again.
The panel pointed out that although the Redistricting controversary is currently consuming the headlines, voter suppression continues as a threat in Ohio as it does in other parts of the country and compounds the urgency to not be discouraged from actually going out and voting.
When "the super majority [controlling the redistricting process] doesn't need participation from the minority party, they can pass any law they want and the people are left out, [that] chills participation from the electorate because it becomes apparent regardless of what you do the results are going to be the same," encouraging voter apathy, Joe Mallory made clear. He added: "Voter registration without participation doesn't mean anything. If everyone registered to vote would vote there would be a paradigm shift. We'd have control as voters."
Ms. Brock was very enthusiastic about that prospect: 'I'm so excited with the idea that the power is with the people. The people are supposed to be picking their representatives; the representatives should not be picking their people. The power is with people, and we prove this if we show up and show out at the ballot box."
In closing, Jasmine Coaston said 'that puts it into perspective. Let me leave you with this: there are some real serious strategies in play trying to suppress the vote, certain people are not being represented, resources are not available in certain communities," she insisted. "Get to the polls. Vote!"
Catch the entire discussion, Let's Talk Redistricting, at Facbook Live, https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=1602904976731739