To the Editor:
On Aug. 8, Ohio voters will choose whether they want to continue allowing the state’s increasingly extreme Republican leaders to disenfranchise voters they don’t agree with. By casting a vote for basic democracy and defeating state Issue 1, Ohioans will take a major step toward retrieving their government from unprincipled one-party rule.
Due to the Ohio Republican leadership’s aggressive exercise of gerrymandering — drawing state and federal legislative districts to lock in the GOP’s overwhelming majorities — my votes for these offices are essentially worthless. That goes for millions of other Ohioans as well.
The Ohio Republican leadership has ignored repeated Supreme Court rulings against the party’s gerrymandered legislative districts, essentially casting the separation of powers on the same bonfire as representative democracy. Likewise, they ignored Ohio voters’ overwhelming approval of a gerrymandering reform measure in 2015.
All this has left in place a rigged system that guarantees GOP supermajorities in the state Senate and House and a lopsidedly Republican congressional delegation. Their overwhelming electoral advantage does not match the political makeup of Ohio, which is more purple than bright red.
Along with removing competitive legislative races from general elections in Ohio and granting Republicans disproportionately more legislative seats than their modest advantage in the population, gerrymandering has helped create a majority party that’s far more extreme than voters in general elections.
With no need to appeal to the general electorate in their “safe” districts, Republican candidates worry only about placating their red-meat base in primary elections. Meanwhile, they can vacuum up campaign contributions from special interests confident the GOP legislature is in their pockets.
This has left one practical recourse for Ohio citizens longing to counter the state’s inexorable drift toward right-wing extremism and fealty to lobbyists — citizen-initiated ballot amendments, such as the abortion-choice/reproductive rights measure on Ohio’s ballot in November.
Terrified that a successful abortion amendment would erode their lock on power in the Buckeye State, Ohio Republicans concocted the profoundly undemocratic measure, Issue 1, to increase the percentage of voters needed to amend the state constitution from a simple majority to 60%. Issue 1 has another provision that would make it nearly impossible for citizens to place an amendment on the ballot, leaving that option to special interests with the cash to gather sufficient signatures from voters in every county.
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If Ohio voters pass Issue 1 in the special election on Aug. 8, the reproductive rights amendment will have an uphill climb. While a similar amendment in Michigan last year passed with a 56.7% majority, all they needed was 50% plus one, the current threshold in Ohio.
Issue 1 is nothing less than a tacit admission by Ohio Republicans that on one of the most important issues animating voters today — reproductive rights and abortion — they don’t have majority support. The same goes with gun rights, which explains why Ohio’s absolutist gun group, the Buckeye Firearms Association, supports Issue 1.
Return democracy to Ohio. Vote an emphatic NO on Issue 1.
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