COLUMBUS — Today, the Equal Districts Coalition — a unified group of prominent Ohio advocacy organizations engaged in the 2021 redistricting fight — formally launched their efforts to push for an open, transparent, and truly fair redistricting process that represents all of Ohio’s communities.

The full press conference can be viewed here.

“Every ten years, we join together to draw new districts that give our votes equal weight, our voices equal power, and our communities equal resources. We do this so we can fund the high-quality schools, hospitals, parks, and roads we all need to thrive,” said Prentiss Haney, Co-Executive Director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. “Black, white, or brown, we need to pressure our lawmakers to draw fair maps that represent all of us. We can no longer let certain politicians rig the process to serve their own interests.”

The Equal Districts Coalition motto is “Drawing Our Future.” Coalition members are working to ensure fair, representative maps by including all Ohioans in the redistricting process.

Through highly engaging and people-centered storytelling, the coalition will explain this complex subject in a digestible manner by lifting up real stories and showing Ohioans how redistricting impacts every aspect of their lives. Members will also work to activate new, diverse communities and people of color who are traditionally left out of the map-drawing process.

“The past few weeks have been a clear example of the need for fair districts. Ohio’s Republican supermajority is currently pushing bills to gut voting rights, punish peaceful protesters, ban schools from teaching an honest history, and more. These extreme, harmful policies do NOT represent the people of Ohio. They are the direct result of rigged, gerrymandered districts,” said Desiree Tims, President and CEO of Innovation Ohio. “District lines are often drawn so certain political parties always win. Candidates’ only competition becomes members of their own party, so they move to the extremes to win primaries. Gerrymandering leads to bad policy.”

The Equal Districts Coalition includes the Ohio State Conference of the NAACP, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the Ohio Environmental Council, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio Student Association, ProgressOhio, All On the Line-Ohio, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Ohio Council of Churches, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, URGE – Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, LEAD Ohio, the Ohio Women’s Alliance, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Education Association, CAIR-Ohio, Campus Vote Project, For Our Future Ohio, Ohio Unity Coalition, Equality Ohio, The Freedom Bloc, and more.

The coalition has also launched a comprehensive new website to serve as an important resource for Ohioans, legislators, and the press throughout the 2021 redistricting process.

Here’s what Equal Districts Coalition members have to say about this crucial issue:

Tala Dahbour, Director of Policy, CAIR-Ohio:
“Gerrymandering is a calculated and dangerous practice undertaken by both political parties to diminish political power among geographic communities, and it disproportionately impacts minority groups who have less political influence as it is. The Muslim community, often being the subject of political discourse, should have adequate representation in the political process, as should be the case for all minority groups. We can’t achieve that without fair districts.”

Katy Shanahan, Ohio State Director, All On The Line:
“Ohioans sent a clear message in 2015 and 2018 about redistricting: we want fair maps drawn through a fair, transparent process that gives us ample opportunities to have our voices heard and represented. In the next few months, Ohio has a real shot at righting the ship of our democracy, at restoring fairness to our redistricting process, and at delivering to us the fair maps we’ve been denied for the last decade — but only if our leaders take it up. The Equal Districts coalition is ready for this fight. The time for redistricting is now. Fair maps can’t wait.”

Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Advocacy for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio:
“We need to ensure that our legislators create fair districts so we can elect leaders who represent us. With our current unfair, gerrymandered districts, Ohio voters don’t choose the politicians. The politicians choose their voters. While most Ohioans believe their neighbors should have access to abortion care, our leaders have made it their job to push abortion care out of reach for too many Ohioans. We need equal districts so we can elect leaders who will protect and expand reproductive freedom.”

Deidra Reese, Coordinator, Ohio Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Ohio Unity Coalition:
“Fair and competitive districts are the best chance to give citizens the chance to determine who actually represents them in our legislature and Congress. Voters in Ohio spoke clearly that we want FAIR redistricting, and we must deliver that process as required.  The time is now to get moving or else risk upending our elections and eroding voter confidence and participation.”

Ray Greene Jr., Executive Director, The Freedom Bloc:
“Minority Opportunity Districts are important for the democracy of all people, especially the marginalized. Forcing marginalized groups of people to fight for resources in a system that regularly gives resources to the rich and not the poor is not the democracy that Ohio deserves. We deserve a democracy that listens to the voices of all of its people. The way our districts are designed right now, that is not only not true but virtually impossible. It has caused Black, Brown and poor people to continue to suffer. The Freedom BLOC is asking that we end gerrymandering and implement minority opportunity districts that allow for all people to be represented.”

Daniel van Hoogstraten, State Director, For Our Future Ohio:
“Ohio is the poster child of extreme partisan gerrymandering — our state and all Ohioans deserve better. We have an opportunity in front of us to finally achieve truly representative maps that put the power in the hands of the voters instead of the politicians. However, in order to get there, we must have a fair, inclusive and transparent process.”

Heather Taylor-Miesle, Executive Director, Ohio Environmental Council:
“Ohioans can only ensure a healthy environment for their families and future generations when they also have a healthy democracy. The Ohio Environmental Council is  excited to work with organizations from across the state in the Equal Districts Coalition. For the past ten years, the General Assembly has been short circuited by gerrymandered maps, making it difficult for meaningful action on important issues like climate change. When Ohioans receive fair maps this year, with districts truly representative of their communities, the whole state will win.”

Kellie Copeland, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio:
“Governor DeWine has again signed a budget that only harms Ohioans. It puts two clinics at risk; and it provides millions in taxpayer funding for anti-choice fake health centers and dangerous abstinence-only programming. It enables medical practitioners to object to any treatment they have a personal objection to, which could mean that patients could be denied contraceptive care, abortion access, gender-confirming medical treatment, or more. We are being held hostage by the tyranny of gerrymandered districts and we refuse to put up with it. Ohio needs fair legislative districts that will prevent damaging policies like these from making their way to the governor’s desk ever again.”

Today’s full press conference can be viewed here.

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