Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Redistricting: From scandal to true reforms?

In an earlier column this year,  I huffed that the Republican legislative schemers  had drawn and quartered the Summit County congressional district into four  unintelligible pieces.  Some would call their handiwork a scandal of Biblical proportions - and that would include me.  The once identifiable  14th district with Akron at the center now appears as a jagged splotch on  the map with a handgun pointing at Youngstown.

Without remorse, the most recent district lines  were cynically gerrymandered by a party with one thing in mind: Drain the Democrats' strength from the old 14th District. It's something the  local Republican boss had supported to vengefully rid the District of  sole Democratic congressmen like John Seiberling and later, Tom Sawyer.

Now, thanks to the GOP redistricting after the  2010 census, the county has absentee representatives from Geauga County, Youngstown, Cleveland Heights and Wadsworth.  If you don't know their names, it proves the point of the divide  between congressman and voter.

And if you want to argue that both parties have been guilty of gerrymandering when  their turn arrived after each 10-year census,   it doesn't explain how the Akron area elected a Republican congressman, Bill Ayres, to 10 terms  before he gave way to Seiberling. Such political ruthlessness that embraces the entire state  can easily be demonstrated by the numbers; although the state's voters  have twice supported a Democratic president, the line-drawers have also guaranteed that Ohio  Republicans have a 12-4 advantage in Congress.

That has strongly fashioned a rural culture in the mindset of Buckeye politics with the urban areas ghettoized for the four Democratic congressmen. Something ain't fair here, folks

So count me among the those who believe that we are well past the time for the perps to show less commitment to political supremacy and more respect for a reasonable accounting to the voters.  I know. How naive can one be?

State Sen. Tom Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, has been in the forefront of balancing the books.  He and Republican State Sen. Frank LaRose of Fairlawn have teamed up with proposals to find an equitable way to rearrange the boundaries. It's a Sisyphean challenge to ask the rurals to give up any of their safe congressional land.  But party leaders are at least  starting to talk about such reforms.

It will be as complicated as Rubik's cube.   There will be proposals and counter proposals.  And the fact that the House plan under discussion is the brainchild of Rep. Matt Huffman, a Republican from Lima, should give any true reformer the jitters.   So whatever turns up next may not still be on the table in the spring.  It may not be  fun to watch.  Still, it won't cost anything to be mildly optimistic now that both sides have agreed to ante up. Sort of.

When will all of his happen?  Before the 2016 election?  Hmmmm.....

 Sawyer is hopeful that an acceptable plan will be ready for the May ballot next year.  But even he offers a cautionary note.  As he once wrote in the Beacon Journal:

"History has taught us that the closer we get to to the drawing of new district lines, the more resistant one party or another becomes to reforming the system".

You learn that from years of political experience.

No comments: