Lawmakers may actually be nearing a long elusive bipartisan compromise to change the highly partisan way Ohio redraws state legislative districts every 10 years. But don’t look for a solution anytime soon on how legislators redraw congressional districts as the newly strengthened Republican majority in Washington has frowned on changing a system that has worked to its advantage. The Ohio House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment to increase minority input into maps for 99 state House and 33 state Senate districts and improve the chances that races will be more competitive. The Senate president has introduced his own plan in the upper chamber that is also in position for a potential vote this week, likely the last before lawmakers wrap up the two-year session and head for the Statehouse doors for the holidays.
Although the two proposals differ in some ways, lawmakers appear to be closer to agreement on reform after numerous false starts and ballot issues over several decades. “I don’t think there should be any incentive for somebody to hold out,” Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina) said. “Now’s the right time to do it. Nobody knows who the next secretary of state, auditor, and governor are going to be four years from now, before we go into the next redistricting cycle. … “I haven’t heard anybody that has suggested that any of the proposals aren’t better than what we have now.”
Redistricting typically takes place every 10 years to adjust for population trends soon after completion of the latest U.S. Census. “This is in my view the most significant development that we’ve seen in Ohio on the subject of redistricting in years and, in particular, the most encouraging real sign that we’ve seen that redistricting reform might actually become a reality,” said Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University constitutional law professor.
Critics contend the current system is abused by the political party in power at the time to redraw districts to its own advantage.