Advocacy briefing for October 5, 2021

Advocacy briefing for October 5, 2021

Advocacy briefing for October 5, 2021 750 422 Episcopalians in Connection

Congressional maps; K-12 teaching on race

Ohio bills banning the of teaching “critical race theory” grades K-12 are arousing great concern among people of faith working for racial justice and reconciliation. The Statehouse News Bureau reported Sept. 29 about the controversial bills, House Bill 322 and HB 327, both of which have been referred to the House State and Local Government Committee where they had their first hearings in June.  Cincinnati’s interfaith coalition EquaSion has issued a statement in opposition to these bills, citing the vital importance of honesty in education. EquaSion organizes the annual Festival of Faiths in Cincinnati.  The diocese’s ecumenical officer, the Rev. Melanie Slane, is a leader in EquaSion and also serves on the Diocese’s Becoming Beloved Community Leadership team.

Legislature misses deadline for Congressional Maps: Back to Ohio Redistricting Commission

The Ohio Legislature failed to come up with a map for Ohio’s new Congressional districts, which will be reduced by 1 seat, so the task now goes to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. That’s the same group which – by a straight party vote (5 Republicans for, 2 Democrats against) – passed maps guaranteeing a super-majority to Republicans in both the Ohio House and Senate.  Those state district maps are now facing several lawsuits over their legality under the Ohio Constitution.  The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jessie Balmert published this overview of next steps on the Congressional district maps.

The Fair Districts Coalition in Ohio announced the winners of its Congressional map competition on Sept. 30.  All three maps meet Constitutional requirements, and they were finished by the deadline missed by the Ohio Legislature. You can attend a webinar with the citizen mapmakers on Wednesday, Oct. 13, by registering here.

Over 70% of Ohio voters in every county approved Constitutional amendments to prevent partisan gerrymandering.  At the national level, the Freedom to Vote Act (S 2747) would provide a national set of guardrails to prevent partisan gerrymandering, ensure fair and uniform access to registration and voting across the country, and reduce the power of dark money in U.S. elections.   You can read about it here.

I’d like to close this week’s update with historian Heather Cox Richardson’s compelling overview of the context in which the Freedom to Vote bill matters.  In her Letters from an American post of Sept. 30, she wrote:

“Yesterday, the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab released a report that noted the new voter suppression laws in place in 18 Republican-dominated states but focused instead on 17 new election subversion laws in 11 of those same states. Those new laws put into place the policies former president Trump’s campaign demanded in 2020. They threaten election officials with prosecution if they send out mail-in ballots to anyone who has not requested one, require legislatures to agree to changes in election rules, transfer control of elections or reporting results from nonpartisan officials to political operatives, and allow candidates to demand recounts at will.

A new law in Arizona, for example, ‘shifts control of election litigation from the secretary of state (currently a Democrat) to the attorney general (currently a Republican). The provision is designed to sunset on January 2, 2023, when a new attorney general potentially takes office.

When Voting Rights Lab launched a few years ago, we knew we’d be busy tracking many disturbing, and oftentimes veiled efforts to suppress the vote of historically excluded Americans,’ the report concludes. ‘What we couldn’t have anticipated at that time was that current officeholders would warp the election process itself….”

Because she’s a history professor, Richardson cites her references.  Here’s the link to the Voting Rights Lab report. Here’s how to sign up for Richardson’s blog Letters from an American.

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team.