Factions agree on problem, but not suggested solution
The public faces for the pro- and anti-Issue 2 campaigns can agree on one thing: The current system for drawing up legislative and congressional districts is broken.
"There's a better way to conduct the redistricting process than the system we currently have in place," said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Protect Your Vote Ohio, a group that opposes the constitutional amendment.
"For 50 years, the party out of power has been trying to get a reform and the party in power has been saying, 'We need a fix, just not this fix,' " said Sandy Theis, senior adviser and spokeswoman for Voters First, a group supporting the the amendment.
Where Theis of the Issue 2-backing organization and LoParo of the opposing group fail to find common ground is how to make repairs.
"If Issue 2 passes, we'll have better government for the next 10 years," Theis said.
"The more you read what's in Issue 2, the less sense it makes," LoParo said.
The proposed constitutional amendment would wrest control of redistricting from the state legislature, when it comes to Congressional seats, and the Ohio Apportionment Board in the case of the state House and Senate.
The board's members include the governor, secretary of state, state auditor and two legislative appointees.
"It creates an unaccountable, taxpayer-funded bureaucracy," said LoParo, one-time spokesman for Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell now in a similar capacity for the ballot issue committee formed to block passage of Issue 2.
Led by the League of Women Voters of Ohio and including a coalition of Democratic and labor groups, Voters First "was created to take the power over drawing our congressional and legislative districts out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the people," its website states.
Protect Your Vote Ohio is composed of mostly Republican groups but also nonpartisan and bipartisan organizations "who all realize that Issue 2 is a flawed amendment," LoParo said.
Theis, who covered politics in Ohio for 25 years, most recently during a decade with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and LoParo were both asked last week what messages from their campaigns are working with voters and how the remainder of the time before the election will be spent by both camps.
"We'll simply explain to voters what Issue 2 does," LoParo said in response to the latter question.
"I think one of the most-effective things we're doing is we're giving them examples of how broken the system is," Theis said.
"I think the anecdotal stuff really helps put it into context."
Along with the "unaccountable" message -- LoParo uses the term or its equivalent a lot -- Protect Your Vote Ohio will point out the $15 million price tag for setting up and running the citizen redistricting commission called for in Issue 2, including staff.
That cost would be spread over eight years, with $9 million to $12.9 million coming in the first two years, according to the cost estimate calculated by the state Office of Budget and Management at the request of Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Such estimates are required for ballot measures.
"That's a pretty hefty price to pay for a commission that's not accountable to taxpayers and, quite frankly, in the opinion of several Ohio newspapers, does not fix the deficiencies in the current system," LoParo said.
Theis countered by saying Voters First officials for months had been expecting a "comically large price tag" to be attached to the amendment.
"We were not at all surprised," she said, noting the existing system costs about $2 million and that the replacement redistricting commission would do its work only every 10 years in response to the U.S. Census.
"We're traveling all over the state in a van, and we're calling it the 'Had Enough?' tour," Theis said.