Redistricting Reform Advances in Ohio Legislature

Redistricting Reform Advances in Ohio Legislature

The national drive for redistricting reform continues to gain momentum.

The national drive for redistricting reform continues to gain momentum, with courts increasingly sensitive to the constitutional questions around gerrymandering and legislators growing more receptive to citizen demands that they stop rigging elections by drawing partisan boundaries for congressional and legislative districts.

The Ohio House of Representatives is set to vote today on a bipartisan plan to amend the state constitution to force Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to work together in drawing new districts.

The state Senate approved the plan on Monday; a favorable vote today in the House would put the amendment on the ballot for voter approval in November.

While the Ohio plan would allow legislators to continue drawing districts, a process that effectively has allowed politicians to rig elections by choosing their own voters, minority party support would be needed to pass any maps crafted by the majority.

Common Cause is lobbying state lawmakers across the country to shift the responsibility for redistricting to independent commissions that would be barred from fashioning districts to favor a particular political party.

The organization also is the lead plaintiff in Common Cause v. Rucho, now on appeal to U.S. Supreme Court, a lawsuit charging that partisan gerrymandering deprives voters of the right to elect representatives of their choice.

The Supreme Court already has two other challenges to partisan gerrymandering on its docket; the justices heard arguments last fall in Gill v. Whitford, a Wisconsin case, and in January considered Benisek v. Lamone, a Maryland case. Decisions in both are expected this spring. Gill challenges a pro-Republican gerrymander; in Benisek, Democrats fashioned districts that discriminate against GOP voters

On Monday, the high court declined to block implementation of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order that Keystone State legislators immediately draw new congressional districts. The Pennsylvania justices had concluded that the state’s current congressional map is unconstitutionally tilted toward Republicans; the GOP majority in the state legislature fashioned districts that effectively lock in a 13-5 Republican edge in the state’s congressional delegation.  Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 800,000 on Pennsylvania’s voter rolls.