Journal Opinion: They Count on Apathy

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Ohio midterm primary election is underway – sort of.

Registered voters requesting ballots for early voting by mail or in person at county boards of elections are finding several races absent from their ballots – seats in the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate, as well as their party’s state central committee.

Those contests were left off the ballot after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected – for the third time – General Assembly maps drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, five of whose seven members were – or were appointed by – Republican state leaders. The court is considering a fourth map that opponents argue is barely changed from the rejected third map. Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, a Republican, joined the commission’s two Democratic-appointed members in voting against that map.

For sure, Ohioans have increasingly voted Republican in recent years. Donald Trump won the state by eight points in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. But that’s not a preference reflected in party registration.

According to the office of the Ohio secretary of state, as of last October, the number of registered Democrats outnumbered the number of Republicans, 947,027 to 836,080, with unaffiliated voters dwarfing both at nearly 6.2 million. 

Opponents of the fourth proposed legislative map argue that Republicans are favored in 66% of the seats in each chamber; Democrats in just 34%.That’s far from the 54%-46% partisan split that the Ohio Supreme Court called for, one that more accurately mirrors the preference reflected in the most recent presidential election, in which the Republican ticket received just over 53% of the vote and the Democrats just over 45%. 

The congressional map approved by the commission also gives the GOP an advantage. It, too, is being challenged but likely is going to remain in place for the 2022 election unless a federal court intervenes.  

This is not what Ohio voters had in mind when they voted overwhelmingly in 2015 to create the redistricting commission. But obviously, the imperative to hold absolute political power is much louder than the voice of the people. 

Stand-your-ground laws, more abortion restrictions and the latest cannon ball in the nation’s culture wars fired in the statehouse – legislation that combines Florida’s “don’t say gay” law and restrictions on how race can be addressed in Ohio schools – might not rapidly become law in a legislature that reflects the electorate.

Nor, perhaps, would legislators be as likely to ignore polling that shows Ohioans oppose their recent loosening of gun permit laws.

The only way to reverse this power grab is to hold state executive officeholders and lawmakers accountable. If they can’t be bothered to obey the constitutional amendment that Ohioans overwhelmingly passed, have they earned re-election? 

Apathy is their friend, however. And so it goes.