“Voters First” Union Power Grab Is Nothing New For Ohio Voters
A closer look at the names behind union front Voters First Ohio shows that the campaign to rewrite Ohios political map-making process is backed by many familiar faces from previous leftist attempts to “reform” Ohio politics. Perhaps as a result, Voters First features principles and rhetoric similar to those employed by the failed “Reform Ohio Now” campaign in 2005.
After a Republican sweep of state offices in 2010 and a Republican-dominated redistricting process in 2011, labor unions threw their weight behind a measure to change how state and federal legislative districts are drawn. The Voters First amendment would institute an “independent citizens commission” similar to the one manipulated by California Democrats in 2011, but liberal groups in Ohio have been working for years to replace a system reliant on politicians who must answer to voters.
The current campaign to rewrite Ohio’s map-making process closely mirrors Issue 4 from the 2005 general election. On the heels of President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection, Reform Ohio Now introduced four amendments to the Ohio Constitution, all driven by populist rhetoric resembling that of Voters First. All four amendments were rejected by wide margins; Issue 4 failed with nearly 70 percent of voters casting “No” votes.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio has been promoting more modest redistricting reform since 1981, was part of the Reform Ohio Now campaign in 2005, and is frequently named as the leader of Voters First although nearly all the campaign’s funding has come from unions. Left-of-center group Common Cause also backed Reform Ohio Now and has supported Voters First from its earliest days.
Columbus Dispatch Statehouse reporter Jim Siegel lists Ohio Citizen Action – an environmentalist group behind Reform Ohio Now - as another key Voters First backer. Siegel also identified former Republican lawmaker Joan Lawrence, a liberal Republican known for her pro-abortion views, as a leader of Voters First. In 1990, Lawrence proposed legislation which would have legalized late-term abortions in the state.
As Media Trackers has reported, Voters First amendment authors Richard Gunther and Daniel Tokaji are both Democrat donors. Prior to crafting the current attempt at a redistricting rewrite, Gunther and Tokaji both supported the Reform Ohio Now amendments proposed to the Ohio Constitution in 2005.
Catherine Turcer, the legislative director for Ohio Citizen Action, chairs the Voters First campaign and is another alum of Reform Ohio Now. In a 2006 issue of far-left magazine The Nation, Turcer was quoted as saying, “Every county has its own party structure, so you can launder money eighty-eight ways,” alleging that Republicans were operating a vast criminal enterprise within Ohio’s county election boards.
In 2005, Reform Ohio Now proposed scrapping the bipartisan Ohio Apportionment Board, allowing court judges to select two members for a redistricting commission, and then allowing those two members to select the remaining three members. As with Voters First, Reform Ohio Now was heavily funded by labor unions who argued that reform was needed to prevent “politicians choosing their voters” – a common refrain heard from Voters First supporters this year.
Other similarities between Issue 4 in 2005 and Issue 2 this year include the undefined budgets of the commissions which would be created, as well as an indeterminate removal process for commission members who appear to be gaming the system.
Likewise, both liberal redistricting proposals would wreak havoc on the notion of checks and balances, inappropriately involving the judicial branch and claiming to remove politics from an inherently political process by limiting oversight. Although money would be appropriated for the volunteer commissioners by elected officials, Reform Ohio Now and Voters First similarly claim that the proposed commissions would serve Ohio’s citizens instead of partisan interests.
An August 19 survey of 961 likely Ohio voters conducted by left-leaning Public Policy Polling found that 39 percent of surveyed voters – including 43 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Democrats – had not decided whether they supported the union-drive redistricting takeover.