Republicans, Democrats and a coalition of redistricting-reform advocates reached a deal to put a proposal on the May ballot aimed at curtailing partisan gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional map. After weekend negotiations that capped off about two weeks of heavy talks, the Senate on Monday night voted 31-0 for the compromise plan. The House is likely to approve it Tuesday, one day ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline to qualify the issue for the May statewide ballot.
The current redistricting process requires no minority-party support and has almost no rules, other than requirements regarding district population and prohibiting conflict with the federal Voting Rights Act. The new proposal would initially require 50 percent of the minority party in each chamber to approve a map for 10 years. It also would limit how often counties can be split into multiple congressional seats, and it would require public hearings and the ability for the public to submit maps.
Under that plan, 65 counties cannot be divided, 18 can be divided once and five can be divided twice into three congressional districts. Currently, many counties are split, while Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Democrat-rich northeast Ohio are split into four districts as Republicans sliced them up for partisan advantage.