Why Ohio must change course and approve new redistricting amendment | Richard Stoff

Richard A. Stoff, a longtime Ohioan, is Senior Adviser to the Leadership Now Project, and the co-founder and former president and CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Ohioans are likely to face a pivotal decision in November — one that could have a long-lasting and profound impact on the social and economic vitality of this state that we so cherish and love.

The proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot championed by “Citizens Not Politicians,” will create an Independent Citizen Commission for legislative and congressional redistricting. It is a transformational — and long overdue — reform for a more equitable and prosperous Ohio.

Recently, I joined hands with 70 distinguished business and thought leaders across Ohio in an open letter in support of this measure to end the scourge of hyper-partisan gerrymandering in our state.  At the very core of America's greatness and our free enterprise system lies a robust, functioning democracy — one that genuinely reflects the will of its citizenry and upholds a stable rule of law. Businesses, big and small, thrive in a healthy democracy where the electorate's voice is not simply heard but also respected and acted upon.

The current state of state legislative and congressional districts in Ohio presents a stark challenge to this ideal. Both major political parties, over time, have manipulated district boundaries to favor their interests — a practice commonly known as gerrymandering. This not only distorts the will of the people but also undermines the very foundations of our representative democracy.

The sad reality is that Ohio's congressional districts are graded a “D” for partisan fairness by Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project. This practice has led us down a precarious path. It creates a system where election outcomes are predetermined, eroding public trust in our institutions — a fact we understand deeply, as employers of thousands of Ohioans. When legislative bodies mirror the will of politicians rather than the people, it results in policies misaligned with the needs of real people. This not only hampers effective policymaking, but sends a cynical message to the public and, worse case scenario, repels top talent and their families from investing their future in our state.

What are the consequences? Here in this state called “The Heart Of It All,” the political rhetoric has gotten all too coarse and personal.

A fair, balanced, and thoughtful redistricting process will not only help restore faith in our democracy, but also set a foundation for economic policies that truly reflect the needs and aspirations of Ohioans. It is about creating an environment where businesses can flourish, innovation is nurtured and our workforce remains engaged and optimistic about their future.

This is our opportunity to set a new course. The proposed Ohio constitutional amendment creates a citizen-led commission, drawing inspiration from successful models in other states. This commission would be tasked with creating fair legislative maps, free from partisan gerrymandering and undue consideration of incumbents or candidates. It would also require the commission to operate under an open and transparent process. We applaud the bipartisan leadership of retired Republican Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and former Democratic Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown for championing this initiative. Their efforts, along with the tireless work of various civic groups in Ohio, emphasize the widespread desire for fair and equitable representation.

With your indulgence, I want to close on a personal note. A number of you who are reading this column may recognize me in my former role as a co-founder of the CEO-led Ohio Business Roundtable. Serving CEOs over a 25-year period affords a unique perspective: business and community leaders are careful about committing their names to open letters. They do their homework; they do their due diligence, and they are firm in their beliefs. Seventy of my business colleagues have thus far testified to the correctness — and fundamental truth — of this proposed constitutional amendment.

We urge all Ohioans to see the larger picture here — and the profound impact of ending gerrymandering in Ohio. Supporting this constitutional amendment is about safeguarding the future of Ohio, building a more prosperous and economically competitive Ohio, and ensuring that our democracy reflects the true will of our people.

Richard A. Stoff, a longtime Ohioan, is Senior Adviser to the Leadership Now Project, and the co-founder and former president and CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Richard A. Stoff
Richard A. Stoff

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio business leader supports amendment to stop gerrymandering