Not since Augustus Caesar carved up Italia into 11 regions has there been so much confusion over geographical piecework as Ohio’s newly minted congressional district boundaries sculpted by Republicans for the November elections. In fairness to the first Roman emperor, it should be mentioned that Augustus at least gave his people new roads and other public conveniences. Would that the Buckeye State’s crumbling infrastructure be half as lucky.
No stronger case against the GOP-tortured handiwork can be made than in northern Ohio.
The new 16th district, for example, pits two sitting congressmen, Republican Jim Renacci and Democrat Betty Sutton, in an absurdly-drawn district that might have been the work of an entry level cubist. It stretches – I can’t make this up, folks – from all of rural Wayne County to urban areas of Cuyahoga and Summit Counties, with Stark, Portage and Medina Counties perhaps along for good GOP company. Old-fashioned political chemistry with your congressman? That’s a joke, right?
As a personal note, I should tell you that having lived for more than 40 years in the 14th District, I was surprised to see a yard sign for Cleveland Congresswoman Marcia Fudge in a neighborhood yard. The Board of Elections informed me that I now live in Democrat Fudge’s 11th District. At least the last time I looked.
A voter project for the 16th District by the Minnesota group, Jefferson Action, determined that many voters either don’t know the name of their congressperson and are unaware or their new district. The study group is hoping to isolate the voters from the babble of politics – a daunting enterprise to say the least – to hone in on civil discussion about important issues. It has invited Sutton and Renacci to meet in a final session in the district to talk about the issues. Sutton has agreed; Kyle Bozentko, Jefferson’s director of policy and research, says Renacci has yet to accept the invitation. More about this later.
Talk about confusion! In populous Summit County questions remain about where early voters can go in the final days before the election – still one more deadlock at the Board since County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff was reappointed to his seat by Secretary of State Jon Husted. (Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, had booted Arshinkoff from the board for bad behavior.)
Citing economic pressure, the board has also cut the number of precincts in Summit County from 475 to 294, which will add to the headache index. Still unresolved are the location of weekend voting before the election and whether there will even be weekend voting now that Husted has ruled against it. The decision is being challenged by the Department of Justice.
The issue of gerrymandering will appear on the November ballot to replace the current system with a new means of creating congressional boundaries, say with appellate court judges choosing a commission to draw them. The ballot issue’s proponent, Voters First, say the current system is unworthy because politicians tend to feather their own congressional nests. On the other hand comes now the State Bar Association to argue the proposed system is wrong because it would still involve judges. Wow. Is there anyone left to trust these days?
Meantime, I would like to invite the brass at the Bar Association to come to our neighborhood and explain why a congresswoman from Cleveland, who may be commendable and all that, should be representing our district rather than a hometowner. In the scheme of things voters have become abstractions in decisions made on high – or low. Right now, we’d settle for a new road or two.