It has become painfully obvious that extreme partisanship in Washington is harming our economy, national security, and the future of our country. The recent federal budget showdowns—and resulting risk to economic growth—are only the latest evidence. While there is no one silver bullet, election reforms at the state level—including in Ohio—can improve on our national political dysfunction and reassure Ohioans and all Americans that our government can be restored to functionality. For example, many Americans deride the practice of drawing safe Republican and safe Democratic legislative districts that produces polarized candidates, reduces real competition and leaves voters without choices on Election Day. Many share visceral reactions at the idea that one party in control can “stick it” to the other party when they draw district lines for the next decade.
There are reforms that can minimize or remove the partisan biases inherent in redistricting. A number of states have moved the drawing of political lines out of the regular political process. Reforms that take the process away from the legislature and give it to bipartisan or nonpartisan commissions, as now happens in eight states, are worthy of discussion. Other reforms could guide how states draw congressional districts, including requirements for compactness, preservation of boundaries of political subdivisions like towns and counties, and promoting electoral competition that would also add some consistency to the process.
Like redistricting, political primaries can lead to more extreme voices in our political discourse. Since the primary election often determines who gets to compete in the general election, many voters are forced to choose between far right and far left candidates that do not quite fit their beliefs. Primary reforms that improve dismal voter turnout rates and lead to a more transparent, inclusive process have been tried in other states with some successes and some failures. Officials committed to fair election processes should at least be willing to learn more about available options.