Thanks to the collection of more than 200,000 signatures to place congressional redistricting reform on the November ballot, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed their own bipartisan plan on February 5. The Ohio House moved quickly and voted (83-10) on February 6. The resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 5 (SJR 5), establishes strong protections against one-party control of congressional redistricting reform. Voters will need to approve this proposed change to the Ohio Constitution which will be Issue 1 on the May 2018 Primary Ballot.
Members of the Fair Districts ballot committee Heather Taylor-Miesle of the Ohio Environmental Council, Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio and Ann Henkener of the League of Women Voters of Ohio discuss the campaign’s next steps in this Facebook live discussion on February, 6, 2018
“The proposed constitutional amendment approved unanimously by the Senate on Mon & 82-10 by House on Tues offers meaningful reform in the ultimate arena for partisanship: the drawing of congressional districts.” Columbus Dispatch editorial Redistricting Deal is a Hopeful Sign, February 8, 2018
“These guardrails protect against gerrymandering and reflect the priorities of Fair Districts = Fair Elections. So this is a proposal that involves real governing, both sides giving and taking, and it deserves voter support.” Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com editorial Ohio Gets Real Redistricting Reform, February 6, 2018
Gerrymandering is the manipulation of political districts to rig the outcome of elections to favor one political party over another. Both Democrats and Republicans have engaged in gerrymandering but this type of map-making reduces voter choices and leads to fewer competitive elections and elected officials who are less accountable to their constituents.
How do map-makers create unfair districts? The party that has the majority can pack voters of the minority party into one district so that they reduce the number of minority districts. The majority party can also crack voters of the minority into a number of districts diluting their voting power.
Are Ohio’s districts really that much worse than the rest of the country?
Yes, Ohio has some of the worst gerrymandered districts in the country. Ohio’s districts have been described as resembling a shattered mirror, with oddly-shaped districts that stretch in all directions. Traditional geographic boundaries such as counties and cities are routinely carved into numerous districts, splitting communities. Summit County (the Akron area), for example, is carved into four different Congressional districts. Many districts stretch for miles into numerous fall-away areas that have little if anything in common. For example, Congressional District 9, nicknamed “the snake along the lake” stretches from Toledo to Cleveland along Lake Erie, at one point connected only by a bridge across the water.
Unfortunately, all of Ohio’s congressional districts are highly uncompetitive and protect incumbents. Every incumbent won in 2016 with an average margin of 36 points (5 is competitive). And read and download a report released by Common Cause Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio released on October 29, 2017.
Didn’t voters already pass redistricting reform?
In November 2015, Ohio voters overwhelming passed Issue 1, which creates redistricting reform for state legislative districts.
How does May’s Issue 1 address the problem of gerrymandering? Senate Joint Resolution 5 incentivizes passage of a congressional map with bipartisan support and enhances transparency and public participation. If a bipartisan map is not possible, a set of strict rules are applied including a prohibition on drawing a congressional map to unduly (dis)favor a political party or its incumbents. The map or congressional plan may not unduly split governmental units, giving preference to keeping whole (in this order) counties, townships, and municipalities. And finally, the mapmakers must explain why they chose to draw districts a specific way or give a justification for the district lines.
Throughout the process fewer counties can be divided making the “snake on the lake” or congressional district 9 impossible.
Issue 1 invites voters into the process by providing mapmaking tools so that we can create our own congressional districts and better comment on any proposed maps. Greater transparency is added by requirements for public hearings.
The state legislature would never have passed if it weren’t for the power of more than 200,000 signatures. A big thank you to all the redistricting reformers who have been collecting signatures! Please get your signatures in so that we can keep up the pressure. More signatures are insurance in case the May ballot measure isn’t successful.