Eight months a redistricting reformer

I’m still struggling to react to the Ohio legislature’s vote to place a promising redistricting reform measure on the May 8 ballot.

The measure itself, which was SJR 5 and will become Issue 1, seems very good. I have posted a few thoughts here, and will probably elaborate in one or more forum in the weeks ahead.

The fact that, after negotiations seemed absolutely frozen and then right at the deadline Republicans were won around to this commendable reform, is interesting. I feel like I generally understand the various incentives for that, although I’m curious about details of the negotiations.

The sudden end of a project that I have spent eight months on, and which I expected to take up another three, is jarring.

I picked up a petition book at the beginning of June, on the very first day they were available. Since then, in addition to stuff like traveling to Columbus and doing a podcast interview, I have also been pushing that damn petition book at people at people over and over and over. Actually I have gone through a few dozen petition books, having averaged about 50 signatures per month since day one (and usually turned books in before they were 100% filled).

Outside libraries. At events. In social encounters. In the cold and snow. Up and down every street in my precinct, plus many other streets, knocking on doors and trying to entice people to “sign my petition for a ballot measure to get rid of gerrymandering” and hoping that I might succeed even though most weren’t sure what that is.

I particularly remember the last week or so before the end of Daylight Saving Time, when I was trying to get as many signatures as I could via door-to-door canvassing, while there was still even a little daylight during that productive early weekday evening period.

I have circulated initiative/referendum petitions before, but never have I spent this much time on one.

I suppose the reason has a lot to do with the fact that all those other petition drives succeeded in a lot less time. Whereas qualifying for a statewide ballot measure in Ohio, with a purely volunteer force, takes a lot of hours. I’m still in doubt about whether we could have succeeded via that route.

I think we could have if more people had done just a bit more (obviously). I felt like I was one of a small group of people addressing the fact that this needed to get done but was not getting done. That kept me going, as did the wonderful Westhore Fair Districts group that I eventually wandered into contact with.

This was educational, working on this. Granted that gerrymandering is a tough elevator pitch; in recent months I’ve taken to envying those whose ask is “sign to stop puppy mills” or “sign for legal marijuana.” But gerrymandering is important, and it said a lot about how politics works that

  1. Even after some remarkably good news coverage, so many people just didn’t know what I was talking about at all
  2. Even after months of circulating petitions, there remained and remain all kind of politically aware and sympathetic people who don’t sign until someone presses a clipboard in their hands in person

Damn it was exhausting. I’m proud to have played this part, and ready to help minimize whatever small chance exists of this ballot measure failing.

As I have noted elsewhere, though, I just cannot really fathom the decades of efforts by League of Women Voters and others, all of it without result in Ohio until the past few years.

Rowing and rowing when it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that you will never personally see that far shore

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