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Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, October 3
 
A Report on Ohio's Democracy
Ohio Citizen Action has posted on its website a new report entitled Reforming Ohio's Democracy: What's Wrong, What We Can Do to Fix It. I'm one of the co-authors of this report, along with Herb Asher of The Ohio State University Department of Political Science, Ann Henkener and Peg Rosenfield of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action.

The report endeavors to take a wide-ranging look at problems in Ohio's political process, from election administration to redistricting to campaign finance. It also includes some policy proposals. Here's an excerpt from the report's Introduction and Executive Summary:
There can be little doubt that Ohio's democracy faces enormous challenges as the year 2006 draws to a close. Its "pay to play" political culture has been the subject of nationwide attention. Campaign cash has been playing a significant role in policymaking and in appointments made to public office. The most recent focal point of this problem was the "Noe coin scandal" involving a rare coin dealer whose lavish campaign contributions were rewarded not only with appointments to public office but also with a lucrative investment contract. In the area of redistricting, the state has an unfortunate tradition of carving districts to benefit the party that happens to control the process at any one time. However, both Democrats and Republicans have resisted reform at various times. The sometimes vicious campaigns for judicial elections, along with the enormous sums required to mount a campaign, have contributed to a loss of faith in the judiciary. There are also systemic problems with the state's system of election administration, which came to the fore in the 2004 election season. Foremost among these is the fact that elections are run by partisan officials with a direct stake in their outcome....

The purpose of this report is to provide a broad-ranging overview of the problems that have emerged in recent years with Ohio's democratic process and to propose some measures that could improve matters. We do not purport to provide an in-depth analysis of the various issues addressed. That would take several hundred pages to accomplish adequately. Nor does this report contain any new empirical or legal research on the challenges facing Ohio's democracy. Finally, it is not our purpose here to lay blame on any political party or individuals for the development of these problems. What we do attempt to do is to summarize the challenges that Ohio democracy faces in 2006, and to suggest how we Ohioans might collectively confront those challenges.

The report consists of seven major parts. First, to provide context, we offer a brief historical overview of Ohio's political culture. Second, we discuss the state's redistricting process, which has allowed the dominant party to gerrymander district lines to advance its own incumbents' interests, contributing to the polarization of legislative bodies. Third, we survey the state's system of election administration, including the rules governing registration and voting, as well as the need for nonpartisanship on the part of those charged with running the state's system. Fourth, we examine the state's system of campaign finance, tracing the enormous role that money has played in shaping policy and discussing the pay-to-play system for which the state has now become infamous. Fifth, we address the ethical violations that have plagued Ohio government in recent years, including the inadequate enforcement of currently existing ethics rules. Sixth, we describe the issues that have emerged in Ohio's judicial elections, including the infusion of money into the process by entities with a direct interest in the outcome of cases decided in the courts. Seventh and finally, we discuss the weaknesses in the state's public open records and open meeting laws, which have contributed to a lack of transparency.

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