Disgraceful gerrymandering of Ohio districts blunts all hopes of the passage of our companion animal bills. Our congressional and state legislators are all in “safe districts”. Those comfortable districts have been carved out with laser precision by computers to assure a predetermined outcome on Election Day.
Efforts to control the district lines for political gain have been in effect since the beginning of our nation. Democrats and Republicans alike have used this technique to their advantage over the years. Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution. So, he attempted to draw district lines in a way that would cause James Madison, a prime author of the Constitution, to not be elected.
In the 1812, Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, endorsed a redistricting plan to ensure his party’s domination. Some of the redrawn district lines were long and skinny, like a salamander. Thus, a combination of “Gerry” and “salamander” gave us the origin of Gerrymander, a partisan attempt at drawing district lines so that the party in control benefits politically.
Gerrymandering leads to serious consequences for the health of our democracy. It is a root cause of frustrating political inertia. The MAJORITY PARTY NOW CHOOSES THE VOTERS in advance. It both carves out large districts for itself and packs the minority party’s voters into a few districts.
Outcomes for the November election are decided in the spring primary. In a designated Democratic district, for example, the winner of the Democrat primary will also be the winner in November. The winner of the Republican primary has little chance of success in that Democratic district.
Legislators are so comfortable in their districts that they do not have to work across the aisle. This is what leads to extreme political positions and lack of progress on important issues.
In contrast, in a healthy democracy, the voters choose the legislators. The legislators compromise by working across the aisle. There is progress on important issues, like our companion animal bills.
US Supreme Court Decision
Arizona voters wanted a fairer, less partisan system of the voter districts. So, in 2000, they made created an independent redistricting commission.
The Arizona commission has five members, two chosen by Republican lawmakers and two by Democratic lawmakers. The fifth member is chosen by the other four.
The Republican-led, Arizona state legislature sued. The legislators said the voters did not have the authority to take the power away from the legislators to draw district lines.
The Arizona case made its way all the way up to the US Supreme Court. In 2015, the Court ruled, 5 – 4, that Arizona voters could create an independent, redistricting commission.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were in the majority.
Justice Ginsburg wrote for the majority, “The animating principle of our Constitution is that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”
“In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government’, namely, that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”
Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. were in the minority.
What happens to Ohio, companion animal bills?
Our companion animal bills do not fair well year after year in the Statehouse. They have some activity in the House. Then, when they are assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee, they meet failure. In the Senate, our bills generally languish and die in a two-year period without even a hearing.
In the last General Assembly we supported ten, companion animal bills. One bill was enacted. Nine bills died. SB 177, Domestic Violence and Pet Protection Orders, the one bill that passed, had been in the General Assemblies for eight, long years.
In Ohio, when the votes are cast, Republicans and Democrats win about the same number of votes. Yet, 75% of Ohio congressional legislators and 66% of state legislators are Republicans.
Gerrymandering is why we get so little response to our calls, visits, and e-mails. Ohio legislators are all sitting comfortably in their political offices. They do not have to work at compromise across the aisle to stay in office. The strength of the individual voice has been seriously compromised.
What you can do
VOTE YES on ISSUE 1 on your November ballot. Issue 1 is endorsed by the Ohio Democrats, the Ohio Republicans, the League of Women Voters, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, and many more organizations.
With a fairer, more representative redistricting plan in place, there will be hope again for the passage of our companion animal bills. It is the way forward for our bills.