Today, Common Cause Ohio is urging the Ohio General Assembly to create a more transparent and participatory redistricting process for the drawing of congressional district maps. The call comes as the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee and the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee announced that they will hold hearings on bills that are simply placeholders and do not present actual maps. The hearings on Thursday are scheduled within half an hour of one another, representing yet another example of the barriers erected blocking the voters of Ohio from participating meaningfully in this year’s redistricting process.
“The congressional maps that state lawmakers draw will impact Ohioans’ voting power for the next decade. The public deserves to have a seat at the table,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio. “Despite voters’ repeated pleas and public demonstrations for more opportunities to participate, state leaders have intentionally made it difficult for even the most informed voters to weigh in. Field hearings were focused only on state legislative mapmaking. The state legislature held no public hearings in September and the Ohio Redistricting Commission convened only once. The congressional redistricting process is really just getting started. It is time for the state legislature to make a dramatic change by publicizing a plan for public hearings for the month of November. Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved the new rules for congressional mapmaking and we expect a much more transparent and participatory process.”
Last week, the Fair Districts coalition, of which Common Cause Ohio is a leading member organization, sent a letter to the General Assembly with four specific demands to ensure that the congressional mapping process is more participatory, open, efficient, and successful. The demands were as follows:
- Schedule field hearings for the public as soon as possible.
- Consider maps submitted by the public.
- Invite testimony from diverse academics and experts.
- Publish a clear process for decision-making, and full schedule for the month of November that details all public hearings and joint committee meetings.
These specific steps are needed to ensure transparent, bipartisan mapmaking in which the public is engaged and where the resulting maps truly serve voters. You can read the full text of the letter HERE.
Clearly, the public has a lot to offer when it comes to creating fair, non-gerrymandered maps for Ohio. On Oct. 12, Fair Districts Ohio submitted the winning congressional maps from its mapmaking competition to the Ohio Redistricting Commission for official consideration, each of which could act as a guide for official mapmakers as they begin the process of drawing fair congressional voting districts for Ohio. Last week, Catherine Turcer testified before the Ohio Redistricting Commission about these maps. Click here for written testimony. Click here for a link to the Ohio Channel. Testimony begins at 26:27.
Creating fair congressional maps is too important to be left to the last minute. The new redistricting rules in the Ohio Constitution mandate bipartisan, transparent mapmaking. Clearly, Ohio Representatives and Senators need to get to work to set up and publish details about how congressional mapmaking will be structured during the month of November, and they need to do so now.