Ohio lawmakers approve congressional redistricting changes, plan to appear on May ballot

Ohioans will vote in May to change how the state draws its congressional districts to a process that supporters say will lead to fairer, more competitive districts.

The Ohio House on Tuesday approved Senate Joint Resolution 5 in a 83-10 vote, sending the proposal to be filed with the secretary of state’s office for the May 8 ballot. The Senate approved the proposed constitutional amendment in a 31-0 vote Monday night.

Tuesday’s vote was the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by legislators to craft a bipartisan reform plan that could block a citizen-initiated amendment slated for the November ballot. The final version of the amendment was billed as a compromise among Republicans, Democrats and the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition, which collected more than two-thirds of the signatures needed to put an issue on the ballot.

Six Republicans and four Democrats voted against the measure.

Rep. Dan Ramos, a Lorain Democrat, said the proposal would still allow Lorain County to be divided into three congressional districts as it is now and would allow mapmakers to divide racial and ethnic communities.

Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, said the proposal falls short because it does not enshrine the right to vote in the Ohio Constitution.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said the resolution is an “historic compromise” at a time when political compromise seems impossible in Ohio and nationally.

Ohioans will vote in May on several changes intended to increase minority party legislators’ voice during the redistricting process and reduce politicians’ ability to draw districts that favor a political party or incumbent.

If approved by voters, the changes would take effect for the next redistricting process in 2021. Republicans have controlled 12 of Ohio’s 16 seats every election since GOP officials drew the maps in 2011 but only garnered 56 percent of the votes cast statewide.

The work on the maps would be much different going forward.

  • The legislature could approve the maps with a super majority (60 percent), but only if at least 50 percent of the members of the minority party vote yes.
  • If that fails, the work would go to a new commission made up of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four appointments from the legislature. This commission could set the map, but only with votes from at least two members of each party.
  • If that fails, it goes back to the legislature, where approval from 60 percent of the members would be needed, but this time with only one-third of the minority members.
  • If that fails, the legislature could approve a map for four years – instead of 10 years – by a simple majority.
  • The legislative actions would require approval from the governor, unless a veto is overridden. And the public could seek to overturn the maps through a referendum.

The Fair Districts coalition of more than 40 organizations supports the legislature-passed measure, but it won’t be putting its clipboards away just yet. Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio said the coalition members will soon meet to discuss how it will support the measure and what to do about its proposal.

Click here to read more of this story.

You can also learn more about gerrymandering, what’s wrong with it, and potential fixes for Ohio from a cleveland.com series – Out of Line: Impact 2017 and Beyond.

About Marion Online News

Marion Online is owned and operated by the (somewhat) fine people at Neighborhood Image, a local website design and hosting company. We know, a locally owned media company, it's crazy. To send us information, click on Contact Us in the menu.