On July 3, the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) released two video clips which appear to show Voters First Ohio petition circulators engaging in electoral fraud. Portraying itself as a “good government” group, Voters First is a left-wing campaign driven by labor unions to implement a redistricting plan written by two Democrat donors.
In the first ORP video, a Voters First petitioner in downtown Columbus is seen encouraging an individual who claims to be from out-of-state to sign the petition anyway. “Yeah,” the petitioner tells the cameraman, after being told he is not an Ohio citizen, “you can go ahead and put your name on there.”
According to the Ohio Revised Code, section 3501.38(a), “only electors qualified to vote on the candidacy or issue which is the subject of the petition shall sign a petition. Each signer shall be a registered elector pursuant to section 3503.11 of the Revised Code. The facts of qualification shall be determined as of the date when the petition is filed.”
In the second ORP video, filmed in the Cleveland area, another citizen journalist tells a Voters First circulator he’s already signed the petition, but wishes to sign again using his brother’s name.
The circulator replies, “okay,” although accepting such a signature is a violation of Ohio Revised Code 3501.38(d), which states, “no person shall write any name other than the person’s own on any petition […] no person may authorize another to sign for the person.”
Union front group We Are Ohio, a key backer of Voters First, strongly opposed recent efforts by legislators to curb election fraud in the state, calling the requirement that voters positively identify themselves with a government-issue identification card “despicable” and an attack on workers’ rights.
If placed on the ballot and approved by voters, the Voters First amendment would replace Ohio’s current political map-making process with a nominally independent commission of volunteers. California adopted a similar process in 2010, with the same stated goal of removing politics from the inherently political redistricting process.
In 2011, the California Democratic Party and national Democratic Party officials gamed the state’s new commission process to redraw Congressional districts. As one party official described it, manipulation of the redistricting commission guaranteed that “every member of the Northern California Democratic Caucus has a ticket back to DC.”
By excluding political experts from the political process, the California citizens’ commission was unable to realize that it was being tilted by liberal activists — creating fewer democratic districts, but more Democratic-leaning districts.
Despite their rhetoric today, Democrats in Ohio blocked a 2009 plan by Republican then-State Senator Jon Husted which would have made the redistricting process less partisan. Asked about Husted’s plan, Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern dismissively told a reporter, “It’s an issue most Ohioans don’t understand or care to understand.” Because the existing map-making process is managed by elected officials, the Ohio Democratic Party likely hoped to win in November of 2010 and did not want to make changes limiting their officeholders’ power.
Following the Tea Party wave of the 2010 general election, the Ohio Democratic Party began seeking ways to mitigate the losses dealt to them by Ohio voters. Voters First marks the latest and likely most costly phase of those efforts.