The following is a guest blog post by Mary Ann Celaschi, a Cleveland Working America activist.
I’ve spent the last month collecting these signatures, and I’m going to keep collecting to ensure that we have enough valid signatures. After all, this little-known initiative could be the most crucial item Ohioans vote on this fall.
The current system for redistricting in Ohio allows for blatant gerrymandering – a term for drawing districts that make sense for politicians maintaining power, but not for citizens. The most recent redrawing of district lines, really pointed out to me the need to have an independent commission be in charge of the process. Districts need to be competitive and they must keep communities together. To redistrict for political reasons is not fair to Ohioans.
That’s why I spent the last month circulating petitions every chance I got: I went to an art festival, stood outside a local freestanding Farmer’s Market, talked with folks heading to a Cleveland Indians game, worked the line outside an event for President Obama, and attended the Cleveland Pride Parade, each time armed with a smile and plenty of petitions.
In particular, my time at the Indians game and the market stand out to me. Not only do I love being out and about in the city, admiring its attractions, but I also appreciated the chance to bring this issue to everyday people who were eager to sign. Meshing the opportunity to talk about this redistricting initiative with the chance to experience my favorite things of Cleveland was priceless.
At each event, people offered an overwhelmingly positive response to this effort. Folks are happy to sign the petition – just taking a few moments to explain it to them is so worthwhile – and are looking forward to voting for it in November. Moreover, they are grateful for the chance to be a part of changing the redistricting process. I also spoke with a couple members from the League of Women Voters who mentioned they had been working on this issue for years, and who expressed appreciation that we are helping with this effort.
I know how they feel – I am so thankful to be part of this campaign, too. Even when folks don’t want to sign (which doesn’t happen often), I’m glad that I have the opportunity to at least educate them about this issue. I enjoy feeling part of something larger than myself, especially when that something – redistricting – is critical for the future of Ohio.
The icing on the cake was a meeting at the home of fellow activist Sylvia with other Working America members who had also been circulating petitions in other parts of the city. I was inspired to know that I’m not alone, and I was astonished by all the good people taking action for a change in the redistricting process. Their energy sustains me and makes me hopeful.
I am incredibly grateful that the canvasser from Working America came to the door a few months back. Signing up as a member and getting more involved has given me a wonderful feeling of being a citizen and engaging in democracy. This redistricting effort is multiplying that feeling tenfold. We can’t stop until we get this on the November ballot, and then we will definitely make sure it passes.
Please join me in this campaign! Contact Stephanie at 216-781-3032 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to sign a petition or circulate your own.