It took years of advocacy and months of gathering signatures for a new ballot initiative, but Ohioans will get to vote in May on a plan to end partisan gerrymandering and create congressional districts that give every voter a chance to elect the representative of his/her choice.
Bipartisan majorities in the Ohio Senate and House passed a redistricting reform amendment to the state Constitution on Tuesday, joining a national drive for fairer, more representative districts that has been scoring impressive victories in courts as well as in state legislatures.
The Ohio plan meets the three standards for redistricting reform set out by a “Fair Districts = Fair Elections” coalition including Common Cause and other advocates from across the state.
- Both major parties must be meaningfully engaged in the process.
- Maps cannot be drawn to favor a political party or candidate.
- Communities should not be needlessly split.
Here’s how it would work:
Stage One: Changes to district lines would require a three-fifths vote of both the House and Senate and must have the votes of at least half of the minority party members. If that doesn’t work…
Stage Two: Ohio’s existing seven-person bipartisan redistricting commission would be empowered to draw districts and must approve a map with at least two minority party votes. If that doesn’t work…
Stage Three: The legislature would get another chance to pass either (1) a 10-year map with the support of at least one-third of the minority party’s members or (2) a four-year map without minority party support. If the process reaches this stage, stricter rules protecting against unfair manipulation of district lines by the majority would apply.
Elected officials would not voluntarily give up their power to draw one-sided congressional districts. They had to be pushed – by personal visits from thousands of their constituents, plus rallies, calls, emails, and the signatures of more than 200,000 Ohioans on petitions demanding an end to gerrymandering and a vote on the November 2018 ballot.
The victory in Ohio comes as legislators in Pennsylvania work to meet a Friday deadline set by the state Supreme Court for approval of new congressional district lines in the Keystone State. The state court ruled last month that boundaries set by the Republican-controlled legislature were unconstitutionally skewed to elect GOP candidates; on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the state court order.
The U.S. Supreme Court also is considering challenges to partisan redistricting in cases from Wisconsin and Maryland and has a third case, filed by Common Cause in North Carolina, waiting in the wings.
Issues: Voting and Elections