Common Cause Ohio organized a briefing on HJR 12, a proposed state constitutional amendment that would reform how Ohio’s state legislative districts are drawn by creating a less partisan process. The measure passed the Ohio House of Representatives and will now head to the Senate for a vote as early as this week. If it passes each chamber with a three-fifths majority, it will be placed on the ballot for approval by voters in 2015. The briefing featured Dan Tokaji and Richard Gunther, professors of law and political science respectively at The Ohio State University. Listen to an audio recording of the briefing.
Calling the bill the most significant development Ohio has seen in the redistricting process in years, Tokaji described the following provisions:
- Creates a seven member redistricting commission to draw state legislative districts. Members include:
- Secretary of State
- State Auditor
- House Speaker’s appointee
- House Minority Leader’s appointee
- Senate President’s appointee
- Senate Minority Leader’s appointee
- Gives the minority party a significant role in drawing districts by requiring two minority party votes to adopt a plan that would be in place for ten years.
- Map is only in effect for four years if it passes with a majority vote of the commission but fails to gain at least two votes of the minority party. This creates an incentive to compromise due to uncertainty about which party will control statewide elected offices four years later.
- Creates greater transparency by requiring at least three hearings after plans are proposed. The current set of maps were drawn in secret in the Double Tree Suite “bunker.” Additionally, four hearings are required if the commission cannot get two minority party votes.
- States that the Ohio Supreme Court shall order the drawing of new districts if the statewide proportion of districts whose voters favor each political party does not correspond closely to the statewide preferences of Ohio voters. For example, a plan might be overturned if 51 percent of all Ohio voters are registered with one political party but 75 percent of districts drawn favor that party.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections