by Matt Huffman and Vernon Sykes, Co-chairman of the Fair Districts for Ohio campaign
This November 3rd, Ohioans will have the opportunity to solve a divisive problem facing our state. Issue 1 defines a new method for drawing state legislative districts and embodies a compromise reached by Legislators of both parties. It was put on the ballot by an overwhelming, bi-partisan vote in both the Ohio House and Senate. After many proposals brought forth by legislators and other political interests, Issue 1 is the first proposal brought to the voters on a bipartisan basis while establishing stronger transparency and accountability in the way state legislative districts are drawn.
Issue 1 creates The Ohio Redistricting Commission consisting of seven members. Three of the members, the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the State Auditor, are elected directly by a vote of the people. An additional four members are appointed by the legislative leaders of the two major political parties in the state. This make up ensures that the Commission will always have more bipartisan representation than the current process allows.[quote_left]Issue 1 will inhibit the ability of whichever political party is in control to make maps strictly for partisan purposes.[/quote_left]
Issue 1 replaces a variety of vague rules and precedent with specific and clear criteria regarding the mechanics of the map drawing process. These criteria will prohibit many of the actions taken by map drawers in the past by preventing certain divisions of local jurisdictions such as counties, cities, villages and townships. This will inhibit the ability of whichever political party is in control to make maps strictly for partisan purposes. Additionally, with fewer splits of local entities, state legislators and their constituents will more easily communicate leading to better governance. The plan also requires for the first time that public hearings be held regarding the plan before approval can take place. At the hearings, the public may testify and the commission may make amendments to the plan. The commission must also explain the rational for the map making decisions.
This proposal requires that at least two minority party members approve the plan for the map to take effect for a ten year period, the time of the next census. Otherwise, the map lasts for only the next two elections. This provides incentive for legislators and others to reach consensus in the original process. Additionally, this process reflects the constitutional principle of majority rule balanced with minority rights, enshrined in our United States and Ohio Constitutions.
For many years, Ohioans have demanded reform in the redistricting process. Issue 1 is a response to that demand. In a rare display, interest groups of all varieties including both the Republican and Democratic parties have endorsed this solution to an always contentious problem. If passed, this will be the first major overhaul in over 40 years and brings reforms to several key areas including bipartisanship, transparency, and accountability. Issue 1 will result in a stronger democracy and a fairer process for our state. We urge a yes vote on Issue 1.