By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter
Wednesday September 6, the APRI (A. Philip Randolph Institute), Ohio Unity Coalition, Ohio NAACP, and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a collection of voting rights advocates, hosted a media call urging the need for a citizen-driven redistricting process in the state of Ohio.
Speakers included Petee Tally, founder of the Ohio Unity Coalition; Tom Roberts, president of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP, and Jeniece Brock, Policy & Advocacy director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.
Ohio policymakers will resume the map-drawing process on September 13, and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the Ohio Unity Fund and the Ohio NAACP are “urging unity maps that reflect community involvement,” stated the group.
“On at least three occasions, Ohio’s redistricting maps have been ruled unconstitutional. This means that for years, Ohioans have been voting under rigged maps,” stated the collective, “The only way to create a fair process is to ensure that an independent, citizen-led body oversees redistricting in Ohio.”
“This time, the process of map-drawing must be led by citizens, not politicians,” remarked Brock, who is also vice chair of the Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission. “We will not have a thorough and engaging process if redistricting is in the hands of elected officials.”
“We are urging the Ohio Redistricting Commission to play by the rules…we know it’s possible to follow the rules because Ohio Citizens Redistricting Committee did just that.”
The Ohio Citizens Redistricting Committee submitted maps to be a part of the redistricting processes. Brock explained, “The OCRC is a diverse citizen-lead commission that held hearings across every corner of this state and drew maps that were in line with the Ohio constitution and submitted those maps and a full report into the official process.… if we can do it – so can they.” (maps can be view at www.ohioredistrict.org)
“All people deserve better than partisan-rigged maps drawn in secrecy and without regard for citizen input,” said Petee Tally, also the former secretary treasurer for the Ohio AFL-CIO.
“[These maps] broke up black and brown communities… to give one party and edge.” stated Tally. [There have been] several arguments made that communities of color were divided and spread into heavily Republican leaning districts which had the impact of minimizing the ability of black and brown voters to elect legislators of their choice… [these arguments] largely fell on deaf ears.”
Talley offered her experience as a voter who was redistricted in Lucas County in the 2022 Primary election. “I personally was caught up in the “packing and cracking” of black voters [into new districts]…roughly 3,800 black voters were shifted from Ohio Senate District 11 into Ohio Senate District 2 …the voters of central city of Lucas County are now in a district they have very little in common with… and are represented by [politicians] with policies we believe are not in the best interest of black voters.”
Tom Roberts, former state Senator, stated, “I’m not optimistic that they will do anything more than they did the last time… they have no interests in drawing fair maps [and] they have no interest in doing the right thing,” regarding the current policy makers.
“Gerrymandering is a decision made by one group to maintain their own political advantage and power. These maps are drawn by politicians and political bosses,” he continued. “The NAACP and members of this coalition refuse to go backward, we refuse to flatline our advocacy for fair districts , we refuse to accept the voter suppression that’s been put in our laws over the last couple of years. This is why we think the only thing we need to do and the only way we can have fair maps in the state of Ohio is to have a citizens’ commission on redistricting.”
The call concluded with a Q & A session. To learn more information and view the redistricting maps created by OCRC visit www.ohioredistrict.org.