What the Ohio Redistricting Commission should look for in a mapper

Last Thursday, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state house and senate maps for the third time. In the opinion, the Court required the politician-led Ohio Redistricting Commission to choose an independent mapmaker to assist in drawing the next (and hopefully final) set of maps.  

This isn’t unusual. In fact, several states this cycle hired a mapmaker who was not legislative staff to draw their maps.  But all mapmakers are not created equal. There are significant differences in philosophy, experience, and degree of partisanship/nonpartisanship. These differences, unsurprisingly, lead to different maps being produced. 

In order to ensure that Ohio’s tortured redistricting process draws to a speedy and successful conclusion, we strongly encourage the Ohio Redistricting Commission to select a mapmaker who has the following qualifications:  

  1. Experience in drawing maps that have been upheld by courts. Drawing constitutionally compliant maps must be the top priority of the mapmaker hired by the Ohio Redistricting Commission.  Choosing a mapmaker who has previously drawn legally compliant maps in other states that have been accepted by the relevant court will provide the public, members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, and the Ohio Supreme Court with more confidence that the map that comes out of this latest redistricting process will serve the needs of Ohioans.  
  2. Willingness to put legal criteria and public participation above any partisan leanings. Specifically, the mapmaker should be a neutral arbiter with no personal interest in the outcome of the mapmaking. 
  3. An understanding of the importance of public testimony on communities of interest and willingness to incorporate that testimony into draft maps.  Understanding the political geography of a state, including its communities of interest, is an essential part of mapmaking. Ohio’s redistricting process over the last year has resulted in a treasure trove of public testimony, including proposed maps from several individuals and organizations.  Whoever is chosen as a mapmaker should be willing to take the testimony into account in crafting the new map.  

There are clearly other important considerations, including the ability to work closely with members of the Commission on both sides of the aisle. Common Cause and activists across the state will be closely monitoring the process to ensure that it is fair, transparent and the maps are representative.