GOP disrespects Valley voters on fair districts
Voters in the Mahoning Valley were disrespected by local GOP state legislators and our governor and secretary of state, who were no-shows at the Aug. 23 public hearing about an issue critical to democracy in Ohio for the next 10 years.
About 100 Valley residents gathered at Youngstown State University in the middle of the day at the scheduled hearing to give input on the required redrawing of our voting districts. I was able to attend and appreciated that Democratic Reps. Mike O’Brien and Michele Lepore-Hagan were both there and listening to Valley voters.
Gov. Mike DeWine bowed out of the hearing, spending his day at the Bengals training camp, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, whose office is responsible for governance of elections in Ohio, sent a representative instead of appearing himself. Apparently, our Republican state representatives, state Sens. Sandra O’Brien and Mike Rulli and Reps. Mike Loychik and Al Cutrona, all had more important activities than hearing the voices of Valley residents about redrawing voting districts that are fair so that voters pick our representative instead of the other way around. None were present.
Ohio voters voted over 70 percent twice, in 2015 and 2018, on statewide ballot initiatives to end gerrymandering and to make voting districts fairly drawn to represent how Ohio voters vote (vs. fixing them to give one party an outsized strength).
The current voting districts are among the most gerrymandered in the country and are drawn to favor Republicans, giving them 75 percent of the congressional seats and Ohio legislative seats despite only winning 55 percent of Ohioans votes over the past 10 years. This means the wishes of voters are minimized because election outcomes are often almost predetermined.
Perhaps the most telling thing that happened at the hearing Aug. 23 was when someone who said they represented state Sen. Mike Rulli’s office objected to signs present in the back of the hearing room that said “It’s time for fair districts, end gerrymandering.” The representative of Sen. Rulli’s office implied that the signs were partisan. If fair districts are partisan, then does the GOP stand for unfair districts? Our governor and GOP state representatives seem to need a reminder that voters deserve respect, and they ignore over 70 percent of Ohioans at the peril of their own elected offices.