COLUMBUS – As hundreds of paid circulators rush to complete their work for the proposed Constitutional Amendment on redistricting reform, it appears that in some cases fraudulent tactics were used to persuade citizens to sign petitions.
A video taken on July 3 in Cleveland in Shaker Square catches the circulator advising a signer to go ahead and sign a second time, for the signer’s brother who was not present.
Signer: “So I can sign this for my brother then?”
Circulator: “Yes sir, if you’d like.”
Another video from June 6 in downtown Columbus shows a circulator encouraging a person from another state to sign the petition.
Signer: “I’m from out of state, could I sign it?”
Circulator: “Yeah, you gonna need the county and all that.”
State laws that govern petitions for ballot initiatives clearly require that signers be current registered voters from that county, and can sign only once, for themselves. Circulators must also abide by rules that require them to provide factual information on the issue, and follow state law when interacting with potential signers.
“You would think, of all ballot initiatives ever proposed, the one that claims to make elections more accountable to voters should adhere to the highest standards and strictest ethics. Instead, Voters First Ohio is actually deceiving those very voters, just to get on the ballot,” said Izzy Santa, Ohio Republican Party spokeswoman. “Apparently Voters First Ohio does not think the rules or the truth applies to them. It appears Voters First Ohio either does not provide adequate training for their circulators, or they don’t believe in holding them responsible to Ohio law. We don’t believe the instances of fraud that have been observed are at all isolated. Given that circulators are paid by the signature, there is great potential for sloppy work and outright dishonest practices.”
Around 780 people have registered with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to circulate petitions for the redistricting amendment. A review of these circulators reveals that a number of them are suspected felons or have criminal records. These petition workers especially should have adequate training to ensure they understand and will follow Ohio laws on circulating. Hundreds of other registered circulators mirror the backers of Voters First Ohio and are connected to labor unions and other liberal organizations in Ohio.
“The circulators working for Voters First Ohio are peddling a convoluted mess of an idea for redistricting reform,” said Santa. “Petition circulators no doubt had a difficult time explaining the idea to signers and answering their questions. Those aligned with Voters First Ohio, including the League of Women Voters, Progress Ohio, We Are Ohio, labor unions and a “who’s who” of Democrat strategists, claim to be about “good government” but this petition drive reveals the depths of dishonesty and questionable tactics they will use to get their way.”
A number of Ohioans are concerned with the redistricting amendment now being proposed in Ohio and find serious flaws in its provisions. It calls for a 12-member independent redistricting panel, comprised of Ohio citizens chosen from a panel of judges. Many Ohioans would be disqualified from consideration for the panel, because they worked in government, were involved in the political process in some way, or missed some voting cycles. The panel would draw new boundaries for Congressional and state legislative districts, but no Ohio taxpayer or elected official could question their decisions or ask for a review. The panel would also have unlimited access to whatever amount of tax dollars it deems necessary to carry out its work.
Last year, Democrats and Republicans in Ohio formed the bi-partisan Redistricting Reform Task Force, which is currently underway to provide recommendations for improvements to Ohio’s system of redistricting. The Task Force’s report is planned for this December.
“Many folks on both sides of the aisle agree that improving our system of redistricting is a good thing,” said Santa. “However this amendment is not the solution. It borrows bad ideas from a California initiative already proving to be corrupt, and it ignores the bi-partisan effort currently in place. We need to allow the Ohio Redistricting Reform Task Force to complete its work and do so with bi-partisan and open participation.”
(Information from the Ohio GOP was used in this report)