The Ohio Farmers Union has endorsed State Issue 1 and is asking members to reject State Issue 3 on Election Day this November.
“When the Democrats drew the lines, Republicans demanded reform. When the Republicans draw the lines, the Democrats call for change – now there is a new and real call to bipartisanship, Issue 1,” said OFU Executive Director Linda Borton.
Borton said that OFU’s board of directors was impressed by the focus on transparency of State Issue 1.
“It’s no secret that our current state legislative districts and past maps drawn by both parties were formed in back rooms, downtown Columbus hotels and generally away from the light of day and the general public,” Borton said.
Borton said State Issue 1 creates more transparency in the process through a system of public hearings and by opening district maps to public comment before they are voted on by the proposed Redistricting Commission. It also calls for the minority party to be more involved throughout the process – not just there to vote “No” on the majority’s map.
While the language of State Issue 1 is loose enough to allow a majority party to continue the unfair practices of the past, OFU believes that the transparency changes and minority party standing in the process will ensure a heavy public price is paid for unfairness. OFU is also heartened by the fact that State Issue 1 grants the minority party a legal remedy for maps that are unfair and that separate communities.
“We like the fact that the Redistricting Commission would have to reconvene after two years with a disputed map, rather than just allowing a bad map to stand for 10 years,” Borton said.
OFU is also urging a “No” vote by members on State Issue 3 the marijuana legalization bill.
“It all comes down to monopolistic behavior and an attempt by big money interests to use the Ohio Constitution as their personal business plan,” said OFU External Relations Director Ron Sylvester.
Sylvester said Board deliberations on State Issue 3 “was a short discussion.”
“After all, you’re talking about a group of independent family farmers who belong to an organization that was founded over 100 years ago to fight monopolistic practices in a Texas cotton market,” Sylvester said.
Sylvester said “markets rigged for already wealthy interests” and the fact that industrial hemp isn’t a consideration in the proposed amendment drove the OFU discussion.
“Frankly, we didn’t even have to engage members on issues of morality,” Sylvester said.
He said OFU believes that the time has come for de-criminalization of medical marijuana and industrial hemp. Legalization of recreational marijuana and related issues should be dealt with “via a thorough, fair and transparent process conducted by the Ohio General Assembly.”