By Jackie Borchardt | Tuesday, July 3, 2012, 11:47 AM
A plan to change how Ohio draws its legislative and congressional boundaries has collected enough signatures to put the issue before voters in November, officials of Voters First, the group leading the effort, announced Tuesday.
Voters First officials plan to submit more than 430,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office later today. Voters First chairwoman Catherine Turcer said the validity rate was high but could not give an exact percent of signatures the organization deemed valid.
The number exceeds the necessary 385,253 signatures, but Turcer said Voters First volunteers will continue to aggressively collect signatures in case some are invalidated and inform Ohioans of their plan to replace the current system of elected officials drawing the lines every 10 years.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio and other non-partisan groups formed Voters First in response to new boundaries drafted by the GOP-controlled Apportionment Board and General Assembly last year. The League and Democrats said the boundaries were made to benefit incumbents and completed in back room deals.
“They choose their voters including where their donors live,” Ann Henkener of the League of Women Voters of Ohio said Tuesday. “[Boundaries] are manipulated for the politicians and it doesn’t have anything to do with the voters.”
The proposed constitutional amendment would create a citizen board composed of registered voters unaffiliated with parties or politicians to evaluate and draw boundaries in public meetings.
The 12-member Ohio Independent Redistricting Commission would try to minimize splitting counties and other municipalities and reflect voter demographics and history. The commission’s first decision would be implemented in 2014.
The effort has been criticized by Republican elected officials who say the process is unnecessary and complaints about the system can be addressed through a bipartisan panel of lawmakers.
Turcer did not disclose all the groups involved in the effort, but labor unions, the NAACP and the Libertarian Party of Ohio some of the organizations that have thrown their support behind the effort. Turner said they could not have collected the signatures without paid circulators but said volunteers deserved credit for the collecting the bulk of the signatures.
“The folks saying this is not for Ohio are the folks redrawing the lines,” Turcer said. “I’d hope the winners would want a fair system.”
Turcer said Voters First will fully disclose its donors in campaign finance reports later this year.