Republicans and Democrats reached agreement Thursday evening to change how the state draws legislative districts. The Ohio House passed the bipartisan plan in an 80-4 vote Thursday night after hours of deliberation behind closed doors and weeks of deliberation among both parties and chambers about how to improve what has become a hyper partisan process yielding uncompetitive districts. Rep. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the current process has allowed the majority to abuse its power every time it held the pen. ”What this process does is provide a series of disincentives to the majority to do that,” Huffman said. The proposal now goes to the Senate, which is considering its own redistricting reform plan.
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
After weeks of public debate and hours of closed-door negotiations, House Republicans and Democrats reached agreement today on changing the process for drawing legislative districts in Ohio. Supporters say the plan would create clearer criteria for drawing maps, give incentive for the majority party to work in a bipartisan manner and make it more difficult to gerrymander districts. “I think it represents some big compromises on the majority’s part,” said Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, before the 80-4 vote. “The majority will not be able to do the kind of things that have happened in the last several years.” Critics say the current system of drawing legislative and congressional districts allows the majority party to rig the districts to their benefit, which solidifies its power, creates a more partisan and dysfunctional government, and dilutes Ohioans’ voting power. “Now, we have a redistricting system that does not require any balance,” said Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington. “I think that has been destructive to the legislative process.” Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, called it an imperfect plan but “certainly better than what we have.”
The Ohio Senate president said he anticipates a vote on Thursday on a plan that would change the way the state draws legislative districts. But Democrats already say it won’t go very far to end the partisan gerrymandering that allows the majority party to rig the election system to its benefit. Arguing that discussions are not progressing quickly enough on an already-introduced redistricting plan, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, rolled out a new plan yesterday that would not alter the current process for creating the congressional map. Faber has said he is reluctant to change the congressional mapping process while there is a case out of Arizona pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on how involved a legislature must be in drawing those districts. Reportedly there has been private push-back from Ohio’s congressional delegation on making changes to the current process, which has provided most members with safe seats. Asked about conversations with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Faber would say only that he has spoken to various members of the congressional delegation and there are varying opinions.
State Republicans and Democrats are working to coalesce around a new system for drawing congressional and legislative districts with hopes they can reach the resolution they have promised the public by year’s end. States alter political maps to reflect population shifts identified by the U.S. Census once every 10 years in a process called redistricting. Both parties have acknowledged flaws in Ohio’s setup, which has state lawmakers drawing congressional lines and a state Apportionment Board drawing the districts of state legislators. A panel studying changes to Ohio’s state Constitution had seemed to be zeroing in on a proposal for a new system to put before voters. But some legislative leaders say they don’t want to wait any longer.
Ohio: Conservative and liberal groups agree Ohio’s redistricting process is ‘badly broken’ | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A conservative think tank and liberal advocacy group usually at odds with each other are on the same page on one issue — redistricting reform. State legislators are considering proposals to change how Ohio draws its congressional and legislative boundaries, a process that has become bitterly hyperpartisan as the party in power draws lines favoring their incumbents. Opportunity Ohio CEO Matt Mayer and ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis released a joint statement Tuesday calling on Ohio lawmakers to adopt “meaningful redistricting reform” by June 2015. ”This reform must eliminate the gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts, which is more about empowering political parties and less about empowering voters,” Mayer and Theis said.
A race for redistricting reform appears to be on for Senate and House Republicans, leaving one to question whether legislators will be able to come together and make good on a promise to pass reform by year’s end. Redistricting discussion ramped up this past week as testimony began on a pair of joint resolutions by Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, that would change the district mapmaking process for state and federal legislators. As voter advocates blasted Huffman’s plan, saying it would be the worst redistricting process in the country, the Senate began moving on a redistricting plan that’s effectively been on hold since it was voted out of committee in June 2013.
Ohio: Redistricting reform for congressional maps unlikely this year, lawmaker says | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The lead lawmaker on redistricting reform in the House said Thursday changes to the process for drawing congressional districts likely won’t happen before next year. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing whether Arizona can hand its redistricting pen to an independent commission with some members selected by lawmakers instead of the Legislature. The U.S. Constitution states the “times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” Most Ohio politicians agree the state’s map-drawing has become hyperpartisan and allowed the majority party to ignore input from the minority party. Ohio lawmakers have proposed allowing a panel with the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four state lawmakers — two each from the minority and majority parties — to draw both congressional and state legislative boundaries.
Ohio: Redistricting proposal would give majority party more power, critics say | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Critics say new proposals intended to make Ohio’s process for drawing congressional and legislative district lines less partisan would actually make gerrymandering worse. Rep. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, introduced a pair of resolutions last week intended to amplify minority party members’ voices on the panels that draw the lines. Dan Tokaji, a law professor at OSU’s Moritz College of Law, said the proposals also remove safeguards that allow Ohio citizens and public officials to challenge newly drawn district maps. Tokaji said the resolutions don’t allow a citizen-initiated referendum or a governor’s veto of the congressional map approved by state lawmakers. ”This will ensure the majority party can ram through the plan they want without any votes from the minority party and any realistic plan of it being reversed,” Tokaji told reporters Monday.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Joyce Beatty said yesterday that they are working to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 in the Senate and House, respectively, to improve voter access before Election Day. “That’s one way to suppress the vote is by confusing voters, and we’ve seen that in this state for a number of years,” Brown said at the event at Bethel AME Church on Cleveland Avenue in South Linden. Dispatch Voters Guide: View a sample ballot customized to your location. The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 would be an update to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prevents voter discrimination based on race, color or membership in a minority language group.
A federal appeals court has ruled that organizations conducting voter outreach did not have the right to sue the State of Ohio on behalf of voters arrested and jailed the weekend before election day. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Friday overturned the decision of a federal judge, who ruled that voters jailed the weekend before the election must be given a chance to case an absentee ballot.