Schwarzenegger tells Ohio GOP: ‘Terminate gerrymandering!’
Former Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a 'Terminate Gerrymandering' event in Ohio on March 4. | via X

Arnold Schwarzenegger was in Columbus, Ohio, on March 4 to host the annual “Arnold 2024” bodybuilding event, but he found time to throw his muscle behind a strong grassroots initiative aimed at putting in place an unbiased body to control redistricting in the state.

Schwarzenegger spoke before a packed room at an event hosted by the Citizens Not Politicians coalition. The majority party in the legislature now controls the redistricting process in Ohio, a system that has left Ohio perhaps the most gerrymandered state in the union.

That’s what Citizens Not Politicians wants to see change.

Ohio is controlled by Republican veto-proof majorities in both houses, with the GOP holding all statewide offices, the governor’s office, and one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats.

Polls consistently show the state evenly split on preferences between Republicans, Democrats, and independents, with Democrats having a slight edge. The present set-up, though, guarantees monopoly GOP control for the foreseeable future.

“They’ll draw it in a way that secures their job, where there is no competition,” Schwarzenegger said. “They draw the districts, so there’s no competition. It’s simple! If there’s no competition, there’s no performance!”

Citizens Not Politicians is a huge coalition. It includes the Ohio AFL-CIO, the UAW, League of Women Voters, ACLU, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Common Cause, and over 70 other mainstream grassroots organizations in the state. It also includes ranking Republicans and Democratic representatives, as well as other political parties from all levels.

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled Republican-drawn maps unconstitutional seven separate times in the past. Along party lines, however, a new court with four Republicans and three Democrats voted to approve the current set of maps.

Citizens Not Politicians has filed a lawsuit against the biased maps. The coalition’s attorneys cite the seven previous Supreme Court votes knocking down the biased GOP-drawn districts. Republicans have thumbed their noses at those rulings, however, drawing even worse maps each time.

“How many times does the court have to tell them they screwed up?” Schwarzenegger asked people attending the event in Columbus. Schwarzenegger was formerly the Republican governor of California. The media often portrayed him as a ‘maverick’ who regularly worked with Democrats, independents, and other political forces.

Republican Maureen O’Connor, former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice, has been a leading force in the Citizens Not Politicians movement. Although she could not attend the event, she sent a letter supporting it, encouraging Ohioans to continue to demand fair maps.

“For far too long, we’ve been governed by a monopoly of extremists who look nothing like the people they are supposed to represent,” stated Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters. “The goal of the Citizens Not Politicians initiative is to finally have a government that actually represents real Ohioans.”

The Citizens Not Politicians initiative seeks to take redistricting away from politicians who draw maps to benefit themselves. Instead, it would set up a 15-member citizen commission of five citizen Republicans, five citizen Democrats, and five citizen independents, with those preferences taken from their voting registrations.

Its proposals have powerful language against gerrymandering, advocating the establishment of new districts based on people’s communities that respect cultural, racial, and class demographics. The initiative would bar party officials, candidates, and lobbyists from participating.

“Gerrymandering encourages wild extremist political views that appeal to the fringe groups,” according to OSU professor Ange-Marie Hancock. “Gerrymandering across the nation, especially in Ohio, has fed the rise of extreme racist, anti-women, anti-LGBTQ views being promoted by a sector of the GOP that harms our entire nation.”

“Ohio is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, with ridiculously shaped districts that only favor the politicians that drew them up,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga.

“The current redistricting process has dragged out over two years, with elections being run on maps ruled unconstitutional a whopping seven times. This has cost Ohio’s taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. We clearly need a new process that takes power to draw legislative maps out of the hands of self-interested politicians.”

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Bruce Bostick
Bruce Bostick

Bruce Bostick is a retired steelworker and leader in Ohio Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees.