Editorial: While your groceries go up, DeWine, LaRose, Huffman, Cupp waste millions to keep power


A recent editorial by the Columbus Dispatch:

The $25 million price tag to hold a second primary would be way more than enough it that was all. It is not all.

In typical times, it would be hard to draw a link between the prices of bacon and gas and the cost of redistricting – a process that determines how legislative districts are divided in Ohio.

These are not typical times.

Like elsewhere in the nation and state, people here in Greater Columbus are still recovering from economic pains brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Add to that lingering supply chain issues, Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the current national rate of inflation — annual consumer price increases reached another 40-year high of 8.5% last month — and it is clear why people are watching what goes in and comes out of their purses and wallets a lot closer.

Experts expect less dramatic rises in inflation over time. That time can not come fast enough for most paying higher prices for goods and services.

Over the past 12 months, for instance, the cost of poultry, fish, eggs and meat such as bacon has jumped 13.7%, a Forbes advisor just reported. Furniture and bedding jumped 5.8%, electricity rose 11.1% and the cost of women’s dresses went up 10.1%.

Why are we talking about redistricting?

Redistricting determines how you are represented at the Statehouse in Columbus and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Back in 2015 and 2018 Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to break from partisan gerrymandering which gives one political party an advantage over the other during redistricting — a process in Ohio that every 10 years has leaders redraw the maps that divide voting areas for political representation.

Voters did not seek a 50/50 split, but they did demand fairness.

Ohio leans right and the maps should reflect as much. But with map after map, the Republicans who control the Ohio Redistricting Commission have shown they want dominance, not the fair representation every American deserves.

Groups suing over Ohio’s legislative maps — former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Action Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio — have asked the high court to hold commission members in contempt of court for approving slightly tweaked state House and Senate maps they created from maps that had already been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The latest map approvals came after commission members ditched maps created in the public’s eye by hired mapmakers.

The Ohio Supreme Court rejected those state House and Senate maps Thursday in a 4-3 decision.

The state needs legislative maps by this coming Wednesday to conduct the second primary Aug. 2, the last possible date, according to election officials.

What does any of this have to do with the price of bacon?

The smoking hot mess that has been redistricting in Ohio is an example of government waste at its worst.

Not only are elected officials playing a game with who will represent you, they are making you pay for it.

If these were different times perhaps the ongoing cost of this embarrassing episode might not be such an issue.

After all, the extra $25 million or so Secretary of State Frank LaRose estimates it will cost Ohio taxpayers to hold a second primary election due to months of shenanigans from him and other Republican members of the commission is a drop in the bucket when you consider the size of Ohio’s general fund: roughly $35 billion this year.

But these are not typical times. (Incidentally, there are no times when $25 million in public money is chump change.)

It would be bad if the cost of the primary election was it.

As Jessie Balmert of the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau which serves the Dispatch and 21 other news organizations, has spent months reporting, it is not.

Neither is the nearly $100,000 the state paid two mapmakers for creating the ditched maps that were apparently too fair for the taste of four of the five GOP members of the seven-member commission — LaRose, Gov. Mike DeWine, Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp.

Those mapmakers, University of Florida professor Michael McDonald and National Demographics Corporation’s Douglas Johnson, were to make $450 an hour for the maps by the way.

The commission has spent another $60,000 for staff travel, computers, mapmaking software and map advertising. Attorneys’ fees — mostly to defend the lopsided maps — are already around a million dollars.

On top of all that, more than $9 million — mostly for speeding up the map uploading process — has been allocated for the May 3 primary.

Who is shifting responsibility for wasted tax money?

Some Republican lawmakers are screaming “judicial activism” and pointing fingers for delays at the Ohio Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, and the Democrats challenging the maps in court.

O’Connor — who is leaving the court at the end of the year due to age limits — has been threatened with impeachment.

State Rep. Ron Ferguson, of Wintersville, wants to punish the court by taking the $25 million for the second primary from its $204 million budget.

That’s a ridiculous solution.

This chapter would have been closed long ago if lawmakers would have simply followed the will of the people laid out right in front of them.

The $25 million and most of the rest could have been used to better serve Ohioans as the state recovers from the worst pandemic since the so-called Spanish flu more than a century ago.

Instead of finding ways to rebuild a resilient Ohio, Republican members of the redistricting commission and their colleagues in the General Assembly have focused on ways to ensure they will remain employed no matter how much or what it costs you.

When it comes to redistricting, it is their hands stealing money out of your purse and wallet.

— Columbus Dispatch, April 15

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