In the 2012 elections, a Redistricting Amendment to the Ohio Constitution was put on the ballot. Known as Issue 2, the amendment would have created a commission of twelve citizens to draw legislative and congressional maps. The amendment was defeated at the ballot box by a resounding 63% against and 37% for the amendment. To many, partisan redistricting is only a polite way of saying gerrymandering, and this very process of the state legislature choosing who will essentially elect them is provided for in the Ohio Constitution. In fact, the Secretary of State of Ohio, John Husted, wrote in the Washington Post this February, “[I]f government is to be more responsive, it is not the people but the Ohio Constitution that needs to change.” However, it may very well be the case that John Husted was the reason for Issue 2 failing at the ballot box. In 2012 I was an undergraduate student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I received my absentee ballot in the mail and started working my way through it. After wondering to myself “Why in the world am I electing members of the Judiciary?” I reached the part of the ballot pertaining to Issues. The first, Ohio’s twenty year option to hold a constitutional convention to “revise, alter, or amend the constitution,” and after that a two column monstrosity of an issue that made me cringe. I must confess, I voted against it. I thought it looked too complicated and surely there could be an easier way to redistrict.
Later that month I had a chance to hear from a visiting law professor, Dan Tokaji, speak about Issue 2. Professor Tokaji had helped to draft Issue 2 and was discussing why it was defeated so handily in the election. He believed that the confusion of voters was mostly responsible for Issue’s defeat. After his talk, I went to him and told him that had the amendment been described as he had described it, I probably would have voted for it. It was then that I learned that the Secretary of State is the one who controls what is seen on the ballots. Before I had always assumed, as I would imagine most voters would, that the description of an issue on the ballot was the official description as provided by the crafters of the amendment; however, according to the Ohio Constitution a ballot board (led by the Secretary of State) decides the ballot language.