Editor, The Messenger: 

All Ohio voters have an opportunity to vote Yes on Issue 1 to create a fairer way to divide the state into Congressional districts.

May 8 is the primary election, and on the ballot, voters statewide will see Issue 1 — a proposal to change the Ohio constitution to create a public process for drawing congressional districts that involves both parties. Voters can vote yes for Issue 1 on the “Issues Only” ballot or on any party ballot.

Currently and historically, after the census every 10 years, a new congressional map is drawn by the majority political party. Unsurprisingly, the majority party draws the map to benefit itself. Both parties have done this. It is a process known as gerrymandering, and it has been done since almost the beginning of this country's history.

For over 40 years, the League of Women Voters has been working for the creation of a fairer way to divide up the state into Congressional districts. Both parties have resisted any change to the process of gerrymandering, so the practice of the majority party dividing up the state has continued. It's never been a fair process for all voters, since districts are not competitive but gerrymandered to favor one party over the other. The practice has become even more unfair in the era of computer data. That data provides for very precise division into districts that disenfranchise voters. Under this system, politicians choose their voters rather than voters having the opportunity to choose their representatives.

This winter, the Ohio State Legislature decided to create a better system for drawing Congressional districts. The current proposal was developed by a committee of Republican and Democratic legislators, in consultation with redistricting experts and community leaders. This effort is especially remarkable in today's divided environment. We applaud the politicians who willingly worked together to create a better system for our state.

The proposal in ballot Issue 1 establishes a fairer process for drawing Congressional districts. It creates a bipartisan process, which requires transparency and public oversight in the redistricting process. It also includes requirements for compact and contiguous districts, limiting how communities can be split. This process would provide for more competitive districts, requiring candidates to work hard to win voters.

The League of Women Voters, the Fair Districts=Fair Elections Coalition, the Ohio Republican Party and the Ohio Democratic Party all support this ballot issue. On May 8, Ohio voters have the chance to create a fairer way of dividing the state into Congressional districts. We urge Ohio voters to vote yes on Issue 1. For more information, go to www.fairdistrictsohio.org or attend an information meeting on Monday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the Athens Community Center, Room A.

League of Women Voters of Athens County

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