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.”
Republican lawmakers have said they are not going to address congressional redistricting at this time. They point to a pending U.S. Supreme Court case out of Arizona. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner also has told legislative leaders he opposes a change.
A Senate committee passed its own legislative redistricting plan yesterday, but it has been criticized by Democrats and outside advocates. A full Senate vote was called off after it became clear the House was going to act.
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said the Senate has made progress coming up with a redistricting plan considerate of the minority party. If the proposal makes it through Senate, Faber said the constitutional amendment should be put on the ballot in May 2015. “I don’t think there’s any incentive for us to hold out. Now’s the right time to do it,” Faber said.