Ohio Group Garners Over 700,000 Signatures for Ballot Initiative to End Gerrymandering

On Monday, over 400 people gathered at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to fight for fair maps and protest against partisan gerrymandering. (Citizens Not Politicians campaign)

Citizens Not Politicians, a campaign to end gerrymandering in Ohio, has collected over 700,000 signatures on a ballot initiative that would fundamentally change how congressional and legislative maps are drawn.

“Ohio has one of the most extreme cases of gerrymandering in the country,” the campaign said in a statement.

The campaign seeks to amend the state constitution with the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment, which would take map-drawing power from lawmakers and instead vest it in a 15-member independent citizen commission. 

Chris Davey, spokesperson for Citizens Not Politicians, said it’s important to take politicians out of the equation here because “their number one consideration is to keep them and all of their friends in power.”

The commission’s members would represent all political parties, different geographical areas and the demographics of the state.

Davey said it’s important that all political parties are represented because gerrymandering is a nonpartisan issue. He said that both Democrats and Republicans have been guilty of this.

Citizens Not Politicians said in a statement that all 99 seats in the Ohio House of Representatives are up for election in November, but “uncompetitive districts and uncontested races all but guarantee victory to one party,” and “millions of Ohioans won’t have a voice in state politics.”

More than 9 million Ohioans, about 77% of the state’s population, reside in districts “where elections for state representatives are not in serious dispute,” according to an analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Also, the Ohio Supreme Court has struck down congressional and legislative maps for being unconstitutional seven different times.

“And seven times the politicians ignored the court,” Davey said. “They flaunted the rule of law and they thumbed their noses at the citizens of Ohio, and they imposed those unconstitutional gerrymandered maps anyway.”

The campaign also noted the Brennan Center for Justice has endorsed this ballot initiative. 

“Under current rules, politicians and lobbyists draw district maps behind closed doors with virtually no checks and balances,” the Brennan Center for Justice said on its website. “But if Ohio voters approve the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment this November, all that could change.”

Ohio allows for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, and to be accepted by the secretary of state, they need to have signatures from 10% of the vote total in the most recent gubernatorial election. Currently, the campaign said that this number would be 413,487, and this ballot initiative received 731,306 signatures.

Also, the signatures need to be obtained from at least 5% of the vote total in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and Citizens Not Politicians said they achieved this in 57 counties. One in nine registered Ohio voters signed this petition, the campaign said.

On Monday, Citizens Not Politicians — a grassroots, nonpartisan coalition of Ohio voters, organizations, businesses and thought leaders — delivered the boxes of signed petitions to Ohio Secretary of State Frank Larose’s (R) office for verification.

Then, hundreds of people gathered at the state’s capitol building for a rally to continue to fight for this issue.

“We had over 400 people there, filled the State House atrium and sent a very clear message that we are done with gerrymandering, and we’re going to fix it on November 5,” Davey said.