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Changing How City Votes

By Readers · October 1st, 2008 · Letters

Kevin Osborne did an excellent job in summing up why advocates for proportional representation are again advocating this change for Cincinnnati: We want a fairer reflection of the people on city council and for candidates who are the most preferred by the people to be elected (“City to Decide Voting Change,” issue of Sept. 10). I do wish to correct a few errors in the article.

Theodore Berry received the second highest total number of votes in 1955 (17,846 first choices in proportional representation, compared to 27,191 for Carl W. Rich, who came in first place). Had Berry received the highest number of votes, he would have been mayor.

Contrast that with the 1957 election where 9X was used, and Berry lost with 50,222 votes (out of 140,825 votes cast, or 35.66 percent of the voters choosing him as one of nine choices).

There was also a dip in voter turnout of roughly 10 percent (71.49 percent turnout in 1955 using proportional representation, with turnout of 61.30 percent in the 1957 election using 9X), very predictable from research on proportional representation.

Contrast that even further with the voter turnout in the last 9X vote in 2007 (27.9 percent turnout). The repeal of PR in Cincinnati was partially about Berry and African Americans achieving representation in Cincinnati — two seats at the time, with only 16 percent of the voting population being black. The Republican attacks played into voters’ racist fears at the time saying that Cincinnati didn’t want “undesirables” running our city. City Councilman Jeff Berding didn’t originate the separately elected mayor plan. In fact, it was Pastor Charles Winburn who first brought the proposal forward in Cincinnati, not Berding.

Also, his district plan isn’t “on the table” — we won’t vote on it in November. Proportional representation would still be necessary with four at-large seats to ensure the most representative outcome in the community anyhow, so these proposals aren’t mutually exclusive regardless of whether people from the community like districts or not. Districts are only as good, however, as the politicians who gerrymander them. Of course Berding would rather pick his voters instead of the voters picking their favorite choices to represent them on city council. Negative campaigning becomes more prevalent in head-to-head district elections, as well as spoilers — where you have two leftist or two conservative candidates and they divide a majority voting block to cause a minority supported candidate to win. Unpopular representatives — with the majority view of city council — can be redistricted right off of council by changing their district boundary and who votes in that election.

These are problematic issues with districts that hit close to the reason districts were abandoned in the 1920s for proportional representation: Voters were fed up with Republican Party bosses controlling council by gerrymandering districts in their favor as well. For the record, we at the Better Ballot for Cincinnati, the main organization advocating proportional representation in Cincinnati, didn’t oppose districts in 2004. We welcome discussion of better electoral systems for the future, but right now PR is on the ballot and we should be discussing the merits of what is on the table/ballot.

— Anthony Lorenzo,



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