More on Ohio Issue 4

This week, the Columbus Dispatch has featured one of the five state ballot issues each day.  Page 1 of today's Dispatch featured a well-written and generally favorable summary of Issue 4.  including a thorough description of gerrymandering and its results (lack of competition -- extremism -- polarization) and a series of maps showing Ohio's current Congressional districts in their current form, as portrayed by RON's opponents (the map not only failed to score as well as claimed but was produced by state employees on state time), and a proposed map by RON.  Some excerpts follow...
Proponents of Issue 4 argue that during the past four decades, the political parties controlling the board have skewed the districts so much that competitive districts today are almost nonexistent.

As a result, they contend, moderating general elections has taken a back seat to partisan primaries requiring Democrats to run to the left and Republicans to the right, creating legislative bodies that don't represent the dominant political center.

"Gerrymandering and its partisan approach to drawing district boundaries and developing safe districts leads to polarization in the political process," said Samuel Gresham Jr., director of outreach for Common Cause Ohio.

Democrats gerrymandered when they controlled the linedrawing process in the 1970s and '80s. Since then, Republicans have created many more current can't-lose districts for their candidates. Thus, the GOP retained lopsided control over the Ohio congressional and legislative delegations even though 49 percent of Ohio voters last year cast ballots for Democratic congressional candidates and 48 percent voted for Democratic Ohio House candidates.

"It's the incumbent politicians who don't want to change the system that got them elected," said Chellie Pingree, national president of Common Cause. "They want to stay in power more than they want to give voters a voice."

GOP opponents of Issue 4 agree that the redistricting process should be reformed but say the proposed amendment is the wrong method. With its requirement that competitiveness supersede other factors in drawing districts -- including making them compact and keeping communities intact -- the result would be a mishmash of districts snaking from one end of Ohio to the other, they say.

"The real question is whether going to the system proposed under Issue 4 is an improvement, and I would argue that it is not," said state Rep. Kevin DeWine, R-Fairborn. "The commission would not have the discretion to come up with competitive districts that actually look reasonable, because the amendment is so strict."

As far as the University of Akron study is concerned...

Separate results were reported for "Aware Citizens,""Likely Voters," and "All Citizens." Aware Citizens were respondents who reported hearing or reading about the measure in question and had an opinion for or against.  Likely Voters were those likely to vote based on past voting behavior, interest, and knowledge of the 2005 campaign.  Four of the five issues did better among Aware Citizens tham among Likely Voters.  The exception was Issue 3, which would roll back recently increased limits on campaign contributions.  A 22% margin shrinks to 2% (!) when only Aware Citizens are considered.

Undecided voters are not mentioned.  I suppose the assumption is that they will not vote.  Over a third of voters sampled by the Columbus Dispatch last month were undecided about Issue 4.

Voters were sampled over a 23-day window, Sept. 28 through Oct. 20.  As far as I can tell, no effort was made to assess changes in support across this time span.  It is possible that the amendments are doing better than reported, because the campaign had just begun in earnest at the start of the survey period, and voters were undoubtedly more aware of the issues on Oct. 20 than they were on Sept. 28.

On this measure, the Aware Citizens showed a solid majority in favor (56%).  However, All Citizens were opposed to it, with only about two-fifths support.  Likely Voters were only a little more supportive.  These data suggest that the proponents have persuaded citizens who are aware of the measure and that the measure could succeed if this pattern were extended more broadly.  However, the lack of deep public support, at least as measured by these questions, poses a major challenge.

Barring a sudden shift in public opinion, Issues 2 (early voting) and 3 (contribution limits) seem likely to pass.  Issues 4 and 5 (election oversight) are going down to the wire.

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