Friday, October 14, 2005

Redistricting in Ohio and California; McCain in California . . . but not Ohio?

Senator John McCain has been an ardent supporter of reforming politics in this country. As an author of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, McCain led the fight to shut off the flow of huge contributions to the nation's political parties.

This past week, the senator came to California to campaign for initiatives supported by Governor Schwarzenegger, including Proposition 77, an initiative which would take the job of drawing California's legislative and congressional districts away from the state legislature and turn it over to a commission of retired judges.

Even California Democrats who benefit from their party's current control of the process agree that there needs to be reform. The 2001 redistricting plan was little more than a deal cut by Republicans and Democrats to protect incumbents. The result was a complete lack of partisan competition, leaving voters with little meaningful choice at the polls.

The same problem exists in Ohio, where Republicans are in charge of the process. An upcoming report by Research for The Rest of Us shows that the lack of competition in Ohio elections has seriously undermined the representation of several groups in government, most of all moderate voters. Just like California, party-created fiefdoms have drained away the competition in elections, placing the emphasis on primary elections and resulting in an artificially polarized government.

And, like California, this fall there is a solution to Ohio's redistrcting woes on the ballot -- Issue 4. Issue 4 would take put the job of drawing districts in the hands of an independent panel, and open up the process to citizen involvement. Another initiative, Issue 3 on this fall's Ohio ballot, would roll back Ohio's campaign contribution limits from the fourfold increase to $10,000 that was rammed through a special session of the legislature last year.

These initiatives are tailor-made for a reformer such as Senator McCain. But he has not yet come out in favor of these initiatives, much less made a trip to Ohio to campaign for them, as he did for Governor Schwarzenegger's initiatives. Senator McCain has proven himself willing and able to take on the party establishment to fight for worthwhile causes. We hope that he does not let the Republican establishment sway him from doing what's right for folks in the Buckeye State.

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