July 2020 Update:
We are working to submit signatures near the beginning of August in order to get the Council Districts charter amendment on the November 2020 ballot.
Locals begin work on Charter Amendment for March Ballot
This proposed charter amendment would change the way we elect City Council Members from the citywide election of nine at-large council members to a district election of five council members elected by geographic area and four at-large council members elected by all Cincinnati voters. We have created a local ballot initiative, Fair Cincy PAC, with the goal to collect enough signatures to place this Charter Amendment on the March 2020 ballot.
If this initiative passes, we will have Council Members living in, elected by, and responsible for representing each area of Cincinnati. Currently, no single council member on the City Council represents a specific area and each Council Member has to represent all 300,000 constituents. It would be great to have a specific councilmember you or your neighborhood council could reach out to when an issue arises. It would also be great to know that a member of City Council is always looking out for your area. This initiative will increase voter representation in Council without hamstringing Council’s ability to govern.
The attached map indicates how the proposed districts will be drawn. 2010 census data, found on the City of Cincinnati's website, was used to create the map. Individual census tracts within the City limits were kept within the same district. Splitting neighborhoods between districts was avoided as much as possible. From this data and the 2010 Cincinnati Statistical Neighborhood Approximations only two of the fifty-two neighborhoods were divided, Westwood and Evanston. These two neighborhoods were split as the population variance between districts was needed to be kept as small as possible. There is less than a three percent population difference between the district with the most residents and the district with the least. This map will hold true for only the 2021 election. With the 2020 census data forthcoming, a five-person panel will be formed, (two appointed by City Council, and one selected by each of the local Republican, Democrat, and Charter parties) to determine the layout of the 2023 district map.
This initiative also proposes that district seats will hold a non-partisan primary if three or more candidates campaign for that specific district. To run for a district council seat, a candidate must have residency in that district for at least 120 days prior to filing. After the primary narrows the field to two candidates per seat for the general election, productive head to head debates could follow. The current system does not allow for head to head debate among candidates. The current system has many forums held in multiple communities where candidates have only a minute or two to give their top three issues that matter to them. Candidates are typically not questioned on their knowledge or abilities to face our city’s issues if elected. The four at-large council seats will be won by the four candidates who receive the highest vote count in the November election.
City Council candidates running for a district seat could run a grassroots campaign and win against an incumbent through hard work and volunteer efforts under this new system. The current system requires your campaign to work uphill and have 300,000 people know your name. The new system will allow you to get to know the 60,000 constituents who make up your district by campaigning in their neighborhoods. This proposed amendment opens the possibility for lesser known, yet still qualified candidates to win a seat. Raising the nearly required $100,000 to win a city-wide election will be a thing of the past if the candidate is running for a district seat. A district candidate could win while raising less funds. This has the possibility to take some of the money out of politics in our city.
Recent City Council elections have only seen 29 percent of the City's registered voters casting a vote. A City Council district type of election has the potential to improve citizen participation. Council Members representing a specific district will be able to be more responsive to their constituency and therefore residents will hold them more accountable.
Electing council members by district will give voice to many unrepresented parts of the City and by keeping four at-large council members this Charter amendment will ensure regional and citywide issues still have a voice.
Fair Cincy will begin collecting signatures early September and we need your help to get this charter amendment on the ballot! If you are interested in participating in this campaign, please contact us at FairCincy@gmail.com or look us up at www.FairCincy.org.
Henry Frondorf, Lesley Jones, Tamie Sullivan, and Matt Woods