What is "at-large" voting?
At-large voting is a very rare form of election in American big cities, where all council members are elected in citywide elections, rather in council districts. The 'average" American top 50 city has 13 council members: 2 elected at-large and 11 elected by district. Columbus is the only top 25 city that retains the archaic all at-large council that came to be popular back in the late 1800's (Columbus's all at-large format was adopted in 1914 -- prior to that the city had 19 council members, 16 elected by ward).
Didn't we just vote on this?
Yes -- kind of. On August 2, 2016 a citizen group called Represent Columbus put a citizen-initiated charter amendment on the ballot that simply sought to change the size and composition of council. It was the first time in 100 years that citizens had ever successfully initiated a vote on the charter , and the entrenched politicians and business interests launched a $1.1 million lie-filled, deceitful campaign and flooded the airwaves with false, negative misinformation that fooled a lot of voters. You may remember ads claiming Issue 1 created $80,000 a year jobs for part-time council members -- in fact, Issue 1 did nothing to change council's pay or current part-time status. A large number of people simply did not know what they were really voting on. This time, Everyday People for Positive Change is spending more time educating voters to prepare them for the onslaught of lies that entrenched defenders of the status quo will undoubtedly spread.
Everyday People for Positive Change is putting forward a more robust proposal that changes size and composition, but also addresses the scandalous mid=term appointment process, reduces barriers to political competition, breaks the lock on elections the two political parties have held, puts term limits in place, and puts real caps on contributions to campaigns for the first time ever in Columbus. This is the type of robust change designed to create responsive government by ensuring people get fair and competitive elections.
Who Is Funding Change and Who Is Funding the Opposition to Issue 1?
The biggest funder of Issue 1 was a nonprofit corporation, the Columbus Compact Corporation, which was charged from 1995-2010 with leading the city's HUD-designated Enterprise Community and Empowerment Zones to revitalize the most distressed areas of the city. 15 years of working on the city's hardest problems convinced this nonprofit led by neighborhood residents that political change was needed to break the stalemate in our neighborhoods.
The opponents to change have been big business, led by members of the so-called "Columbus Partnership": LBrands, Nationwide Insurance, AEP, Wolfe Enterprises, etc. along with the city elected officials whose campaigns they fund. We expect them to oppose the Everyday People for Positive Change initiative because we seek to break the corrupting influence of corporate funding of political campaigns -- making politicians responsive to everyday people, rather than corporate titans.
What Barriers are the Power Elites Putting Up?
The entrenched politicians don't like citizens being involved in determining what gets on the ballot. So now they are trying to block Everyday People from putting caps on political contributions into this ballot issue, under the false cover of a "single subject" limitation.
Courts have consistently ruled that single subject provisions are designed to keep unnatural combinations of different things from the same ballot, and they have affirmed that as long as different subjects are "reasonably related" to the same general object or purpose there is no violation of single subject. To try to keep this off the ballot, the City Attorney (Rick Pfeiffer) has somehow decided that funding of elections does not have a "reasonable relationship" to council elections. Further, that they are an "unnatural combination" of provisions and that putting them together is a "manifest and gross violation" of the rule, Not a single council member has stated a disagreement with that ridiculous, political opinion. While we are trying to work on council to get them to change their opinion, at this point if they stick to that point of view they will vote against putting this on the ballot, meaning Everyday People will have to sue the city to enforce our constitutional right to referendum. Such a lawsuit would be filed as an "expedited election action" -- likely with the Ohio Supreme Court, and would be decided based on briefs in about 3 weeks-- meaning the issue would still make the May ballot.
Notable court decisions create a legal precedent that support our view. Such decisions, shared by Everyday People with city council, read as follows:
Wilke v. Taft says "The primary and universally recognized purpose of one subject provisions is to prevent logrolling. These requirements prevent logrolling by disallowing unnatural combinations of provisions in acts" (quoting State ex. rel. Ohio Civ. Serv. Emp. Assn v SERB) …
"… [T]he applicable test for determining compliance with the separate-vote requirement ... is that 'a proposal consists of one amendment ... so long as each of its subjects bears some reasonable relationship to a single general object of purpose ... Courts have generally taken a 'liberal [view] in interpreting what such a single general purpose or object may be.'"
“All that is required is that the act should not include legislation so incongruous that it could not, by any fair intendment, be considered germane to one general subject. The subject may be as comprehensive as the legislature chooses to make it, provided it constitutes, in the constitutional sense, a single subject, and not several. The connection or relationship of several matters, such as will render them gemane to one subject and to each other , can be of various kinds, as, for example, of means to ends, or different subdivisions of the same subject, or that all are designed for the same purpose or that both are designated by the same term. Neither is it necessary that the connection or relationship should be logical; it is enough that the matters are connected with and related to a single subject, in popular signification (in Wilke, quoting New Jersey Assn v. Lan)
Wilke v. Taft says: “although the combination o the various projects may well have been a tactical decision to promote the passage of all the projects, it is not such an ‘unnatural combinations’ of provisions that its submission to the electorate as one amendment violates the separate-vote requirement o section 1, Article XI of the Ohio Constitution. The amendment is also sufficiently clear so as to be understandable and not misleading to the ordinary citizen. Accordingly, there is no basis to withhold the proposed amendment from the ballot. The wisdom of the combination under the single general purpose of economic development in Ohio must thus await the will of the electorate at the November 8 election.
Dix v. Celeste says "...the one-subject provision is not directed at plurality, but at disunity in subject matter." and an enactment can be invalidated for “only a manifestly gross and fraudulent violation of this rule.”
Hinkle v. Franklin County Bd of Elections says "the mere fact that a bill embraces more than one topic is not fatal, as long as a common purpose or relationship exists between the topics." Further that "[only] when there are no discernible practical, rational or legitimate reasons for combining the provisions in one act [the act can be held to be invalid]."
Ohio Liberty Council v. Bruenner says”the power of initiative and referendum ns one of the most essential safeguards to representative government … the power of initiative must be liberally construed, and the General Assembly cannot diminish that power,” further saying “the ballot board has a clear legal duty to liberally construe the right of initiative, and as long as the citizen-initiated proposed amendment bears some reasonable relationship to a single general object or purpose, the board must certify its approval of the amendment as written.” [All emphases added]
A silent corruption runs rampant in this city, which seeks to control everyday citizens and which we seek to change.