Home Politics Democrats and Republicans compromise, offer solution to Ohio’s gerrymandered districts

Democrats and Republicans compromise, offer solution to Ohio’s gerrymandered districts

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An issue on the November ballot will allow Ohio voters to decide whether to change the state’s redistricting process.

The first issue voters will see when they enter voting booths on Nov. 3 is the Ohio Bipartisan Redistricting Amendment, which now has the full bipartisan support that its name requires.

If the constitutional amendment is passed, a bipartisan commission would be created to decide how to divide Ohio into state legislative districts. Supporters of the amendment hope it will prevent gerrymandering, which has historically plagued Ohio.

The redistricting commission would consist of seven members, according to the proposed amendment. Two of the seven members would always be from the minority party, while the current system only requires one out of five to be part of the smaller party.  

“The essence of our democracy has been undermined by a system that basically guarantees the re-election of almost every single incumbent, and also has locked in place a supermajority of one party no matter how the voters actually vote,” David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said.

Pepper, along with other members of the Democratic executive committee, announced support for the bipartisan amendment Sept. 12. Many wondered why it took Democratic leadership so long to endorse Issue 1.

Ohio Republicans endorsed the bill early on, and other organizations – many of which lean left – also endorsed the amendment. Fair Districts for Ohio was formed as a result of the bill to educate voters on the changes the amendment could bring to districts in Ohio.

Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposed amendment would eliminate the secrecy that has made the Ohio redistricting process undemocratic.

“The newly created committee would require at least three meetings to be held in public, allowing citizens to be better informed about the process,” Brickner said.

He did warn, however, that the redistricting amendment only goes as far as state legislative districts. It will not do anything to change federal legislative districts, which he believes need repaired.

Matt Huffman is a Republican candidate for Ohio State Senate, chairman of Fair Districts for Ohio and the original sponsor of Issue 1. Huffman said that if passed, the amendment would not necessarily stop gerrymandering but would instead make the partisan process more difficult.

“It’s a matter of requiring or putting in place a set of incentives that make people want to compromise with the other side. In this case, if the parties don’t agree on the map, the map only lasts for four years instead of ten,” Huffman said.

Huffman admits redistricting every four years is not an ideal situation for Ohio voters who could potentially lose a liked representative, but he believes that those on the redistricting committee will work harder to ensure a ten-year plan is established.  

Pepper defended the executive committee’s late endorsement of the issue.  

“I would say we did our due diligence and we brought the vote forward as quickly as possible, given that we wanted to do the responsible thing, and that was to dig into to make sure it was something we can stand behind,” Pepper said.

Even if voters approve the measure in November, the committee will not decide new boundaries until the state is up for redistricting in 2021.

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One Comment

  1. Karen Drake

    October 30, 2015 at 7:15 PM

    Good article. I hope all the students vote yes for this article on November 2nd.

    Reply

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