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ConstitutionALE: A More Perfect Gerrymander

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On Monday, May 14, our only event was an evening City Club Forum entitled "ConstitutionALE: A More Perfect Gerrymander" that appropriately took place at the Great Lakes Brewing Company on Market Avenue in Ohio City.

As the program notes in part stated, "Among the flash point issues facing our country, gerrymandering may be the one that has the biggest impact on political divisiveness. And it's not new; it's actually a practice our nation has debated for more than 200 years. The Constitution calls for a redistricting process to be done by the states every ten years, taking into account new census numbers. When it's done in ways that anger people, that's typically when you start to hear gerrymandering critiques. That particularly American idiom dates to 1812, when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry approved a partisan redistricting map in which one district resembled a salamander."

Accordingly, Mr. Dan Moulthrop, City Club CEO, moderated a discussion between Ms. Freda J. Levenson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio, and Mr. Patrick T. Lewis, Partner at "BakerHostetler" and member of "The Federalist Society". Mr. Moulthrop begin the session by welcoming all of us to what he termed a "magical mystery tour" because the City Club had never done a series on questions posed by the U.S. Constitution before (other programs are planned including one dealing with the census) but he believed that it was time that one was conducted.

During the discussion, such matters were touched upon as how the 2010 election wherein the Republicans won both the governorship and both houses of the Ohio legislature thus paving the way for the very controversial redistricting that took effect in 2012 and the effects of other redistricting scenarios taking place around the United States wherein Democrats as well as Republicans have been accused of unfairness.

Certainly Issue #1,  which was approved overwhelmingly by the Ohio voters last week, was brought up and cautious optimism was expressed that it might be able to change things for the better. Issue 1 was endorsed by the League of Women Voters of Ohio and upon its website it was written that "the proposed amendment that passed the Ohio Senate creates a bipartisan process that strongly encourages both major parties to cooperate and agree on a congressional map that represents the views of Ohioans. Issue 1 includes greater transparency and strong rules that focus on keeping communities together and prohibitions on gerrymandering if the two political parties come to an impasse." (See https://my.lwv.org/ohio/get-involved/issue1redistricting)

During the Q and A, our friend, Ms. Lucy Stickan, who used to work for U.S. Senators George Voinovich and Rob Portman before she retired, brought up an excellent point when she said that much of the information that will be taken into consideration regarding redistricting will be based on the upcoming 2020 census and therefore it was very important that the citizenry take the time to fill out the forms and not to regard the process as an invasion of privacy.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most profound thing that was said that night came from another questioner who simply stated that he did not want a system wherein an elected official could choose his own constituents; instead he wanted a system wherein he (and other voters) could choose who his elected official would be.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC