COLUMBUS — A new alliance is calling on Ohio's elected leaders to get to work on this year's redistricting process.
The newly launched Equal Districts Coalition held a news conference Thursday to demand a fair and transparent map-making process.
Katy Shanahan, Ohio state director for All On The Line, said it means ensuring citizens speak up and get involved.
"We should be centering the people in every conversation that we have about what our districts look like now, and what they need to look like in the future to best represent our communities," Shanahan said.
Prentiss Haney, co-executive director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, explained the coalition is helping residents create their own district maps online, with 1,900 submitted so far.
"Regular citizens right now, from Chillicothe to Dayton to Columbus, are actually modeling the process that our mapmakers should be doing right now," Haney said. "They're showing them what the heart of the reform should be."
The maps will be presented to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which has not yet convened. Census data will be available in 45 days, mid-August, much later than usual because of the pandemic.
Tala Dahbour, policy director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Ohio, said the coalition will engage with diverse communities who have traditionally been left out of the map-drawing process.
"We know our communities best," Dahbour contended. "We must ensure that minority voices who have been politically disenfranchised receive ample representation and fair districts."
Darold Johnson, legislative director for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, sees the 2021 redistricting process as an opportunity to ensure that children know "their vote is their voice." He thinks for too long, some politicians have "rigged" district maps to their benefit.
"As educators we teach at a very young age that, you know, democracy is important, that we should participate in that process, and that you have the opportunity to choose your electorate," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, legislators have been choosing who will represent them."
Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.