It’s good news that Ohio Secretary of State John Husted has to accept the petition seeking a referendum on the Republicans’ new map of Ohio congressional districts. That’s not the kind of thing that usually makes it into this blog, but I can’t let it go.
My issue isn’t about partisanship. It’s about water.
There are very few people in Ohio, I think, who do not believe that our waterways—in particular Lake Erie—are significant assets.
Whether you are a business person who believes anyone ought to be able to suck out millions of gallons of water for packaging and resale in little plastic bottles, or whether your business is charter fishing, or whether your conviction is that the lake needs to be defended against polluters and invasive species, our fresh water is an asset.
It deserves significant representation. It deserves a congressional delegation broad enough to stand up for the interests of the people who depend on it.
But the re-drawn map doesn’t just solidify some Republican districts and isolate some Democratic ones. It means just a tiny number of congressional representatives have constituents who live in communities located on our Great Lake and our biggest waterways. In fact, the way this new map is drawn, those assets gets just about as little representation as possible. That’s not in the state’s best interest. It’s certainly not in the best interest of our waterways—particularly our Lake.
We need more districts touching Lake Erie, more representatives of communities on its shores, a bigger delegation directly affected by and concerned for our biggest asset. We’ve got the Asian Carp knocking at our door. We’ve got communities in the Southwestern US running out of water and trying to figure out how to get ours. Lake Erie needs defense. And in the interest of shoring up partisan political control, this map gives our lake and our state short shrift.
The sparsely populated southeastern Ohio district 6 has been this way for a while. It’s easy to say that what all those people, stretching hundreds of miles from Mahoning County to Scioto County have in common is the river.
But the more significant truth is that those hundreds of miles of Ohio River frontage are represented by just one congressperson. Just one representative will have constituents who live in communities directly affected by the river—by the water quality, by the wildlife, by the recreational opportunities.
Likewise, the stretch from Cleveland all the way to Toledo—all that lake frontage and water will be represented by just one congressperson. Defined by the direct interests of the constituent voters, that whole stretch of the lake becomes a priority for just one congressional representative.
Doesn’t Lake Erie deserve better?