You are here

Coffee & Conversation - Richard Gunther and Redistricting

Coffee & Conversation

March 3, 2012

31 attendees.

Kathy Panning: Thanks to Jeff, Park Creek Kitchen Owner, for opening for us this morning and everyone please come here to eat to support Park Creek Kitchen.

Welcome to Scott Wharton running for the Democratic nomination for the 15th Congressional District. Scott: Retired military, Gulf War vet; union member of airline pilots association, part of AFLCIO. SB5 is key to our election this year. Right to work has the unions fired up. This is going to be a good year for us as Democrats. With your support, we can do it, and we can win.

Carolyn Casper: Introduction of our featured speaker. Richard Gunther is faculty in Political Science. He’s an expert in voting behavior and a member of Voters First.

Richard Gunther: Thank you. I’m sure all of you followed the shenanigans that even the proponents called “the bunker.” Some of these shenanigans were as follows. We ought to have competitive elections where it is possible to oust an incumbent. There ought to be representation equivalent to the proportion of voters. Communities ought to be kept intact. See the map of our congressional districts. (See PDF of the Voters First handout.)

Representative unfairness, a term that is defined as how much difference is there between the districts won by a party, and the votes won by the party. The current Ohio congressional map gives a difference of 24%, this is unbelievable, this is wrong.

Cracking and packing. Cracking. In Franklin County, the urban and suburban voters are overwhelmed by voters from rural districts. Packing. Now why would the Republicans make the 3rd district 80% Democratic? The R’s have packed the Democrats into four Ohio ghettos, 11th, 3rd, 9th, and 13th.

LWV, Ohio Citizens Action, and America Votes are our collaborators in this initiative to get a fair process enacted through a petition drive (we are Voters First). We’re trying to put together a coalition of progressive forces to make creating districts more fair.

The group called Team Boehner worked to gerrymander the maps, and they handed the map over to the actual people who were supposed to be making the maps.

We are collecting signatures. We need to get 1000 valid signatures to file with the Secretary of State. That will take 3-4 weeks between the time we submit and the time we’re authorized to go forward. I’m shooting for a week from Wednesday. Approximately a month from now, we can start collecting 386,000 valid signatures before July 1. If we do that, we will be on the November ballot. If we win in November, we can automatically draw up new maps for the rest of the decade. Initial polling is 54-28 favorable. Republicans favor it 2-1. We thought of arguments that misrepresent what we’re doing. After adding all the misinformation, our polling gets even better.


Q: How will we win this compared to the RON amendments?

A: Several problems with RON campaign. The proposal was only on competitiveness. It didn’t have representative fairness. So it was open to attacks from the other side that produced crazy maps. RON was the worst campaign I have ever seen in my life. The campaign consultants ran the same old commercials, instead of actually presenting what the amendments said. It was an off-off-year election. Much lower election turnout. We’re going to make sure this is going to be handled very differently. We made it absolutely clear, the consultants will listen to the suggestions of the executive committee. We have two firms we are talking to. One ran the Issue 2, and one ran the Florida redistricting.


Q: What guarantee do we have that the state government will actually follow this law if it is passed?

A: We have Dan Tokaji on our team, one of the leading law experts on constitutional voting. We are very careful about boxing these people. Anyone who is a politician, a relative of a politician, a lobbyist. They’re out. If all our plans work, it goes to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court must judge between the maps, and can only judge based on the criteria. They can’t submit their own map.


Q: How is this better than the repeal petitions for HB 319?

A: Then, we were driving the truck over a cliff and letting the judiciary pick the map.


Q: What about the legislative proposal by the Gang of Four?

A: Several drawbacks of that legislative plan. It wouldn’t take place until 2022. It would support a bi-partisan gerrymander, which heavily supports incumbents.


Q: What are other ideas?

A: Three maps put forward, an R, a D, and a compromise, let the voters decide. That sounds like the voters get to choose, but think about it. The Republicans will heavily advertise their map, the Democrats will heavily advertise their map, but who will advertise the compromise map?


Q: If the Supreme Court gets this, what will happen?

A: The Courts will not have the ability to throw it out and make their own.


Q: What were the winning maps from past contests?

A: Google “Draw the Maps”. That has all the winning maps.


Q: How is this plan going avoid pitfalls of earlier plans?

A: In the Florida Constitution, there is now a sentence that says, no district maps can favor one party or another. We borrowed that language. However, proving intent is one difficult. Jim Slagle, who spoke at Coffee and Conversation in November, did a FOIA request, and he got all these emails, stacks of information, that we are now using. That is the smoking gun.


Q: What about the California redistricting panels?

A: The California rules were very loose, and one party was able to pack the citizen commissions. So Democrats will pick up several seats in California. We want to avoid that kind of outcome.


Q: How will the people be chosen?

A: There will be no ability to stack this commission with one party or another. The Supreme Court will oversee the random selection of judicial panel. They will receive nominations of citizens to be on the panel. There will be a pool of 42: 14R, 14D, 14 unaffiliated. The judges will make sure there are no ringers. We need to have people who are qualified. There will be an educational component. Then the Speaker and the Minority leader can each peremptorily reject three from their pool. There will be a random drawing to bring in the first 9. Then the remaining three will try to find more gender and ethnic balance that cannot be conferred by random draw alone.


Q: Is this a constitutional amendment?

A: Yes, it is difficult, but we will get it.


Q: Money. How’s the funding going to happen?

A: Until we get a consulting firm, we’re asking for small contributions. LWV gave us $34,000 to give us enough money to run the poll. We are pursuing money from unions. The chair of We Are Ohio, Larry Wicks, is our cheerleader. The OEA is behind us. Tim Burga of the AFL-CIO of Ohio is a strong supporter. The consultants have contacts with deep pocketed philanthropists around the country. The cost estimates for collecting signatures is between 1.5 to 2 million dollars. We do have clubs like this one (UAPA) who will be active supporters. We want as many petitions brought in from volunteers as possible. Volunteers last time brought in 86% valid signatures. Paid petitions brought in 52% success rate. Issue 2 campaign was very well funded. They spent 20 million dollars.


Q: What if you take Soros money, won’t that be the entire campaign on the anti side?

A: Yes. But we are trying to get George Voinovich and Bob Taft to endorse us. We have a very good shot at it. In a perfect world, we’d have George Voinovich, Bob Taft, John Glenn, and Ted Strickland going around the state for us.


Q: What do you need an independent auditor for? Isn’t that redundent, with the Supreme Court picking the candidates?

A: The independent auditor is only there to help the panel to do the clerical tasks of looking through the documents and vetting the panel.


Q: What about the Constitution Modernization Commision?

A: It is a tactical and strategic problem. The legislature has made it clear they will not have anything that will go forward before 2022. Our opponents will use this as an excuse to get people not to support us.

Every newspaper in Ohio roundly condemned the gerrymandered maps. Even the Dispatch. The Cleveland Plain Dealer called this larceny. A campaign where the legislators say, leave this in our hands. They are so unpopular, that will be an easy one to knock down.


Q: How is the court case going?

A: The Supreme Court is looking at it and it is obviously unconstitutional.


Q: Where else will you be giving this presentation?

A: UAPA membership meeting March 20, at the UA Public Library. Ward 21 Democratic Club. Licking County and Fairfield County Democrats. Westerville Progressives.

Voters First website is up and running.


Carolyn Casper volunteered to be the coordinator for the petition signing. Pick up petitions from her.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer