The General Assembly appears poised to propose bipartisan changes in how Ohio draws congressional districts. Good. Ohioans are fed up with the toxic congressional gridlock that results in part from U.S. House districts drawn to protect incumbents, a process that also can yield extreme partisan representation. The determination by Ohio legislators to reshape redistricting is a sign of progress, but, to be adequate, a legislative plan must have genuine safeguards. These include ironclad requirements for districts that are compact and fair, keeping communities as intact as possible. And to win support, a legislative plan must have full bipartisan buy-in, including over federally required protections for Ohio’s African-American voters.
A thoughtful, balanced legislative solution is feasible – but it won’t happen unless the General Assembly’s redistricting working group reaches a consensus as soon as possible that includes such ironclad rules.
There’s a clear impetus for action: Change is coming, whether from the legislature or from the voters on their own, since the current approach clearly is broken. Reporting by cleveland.com’s Rich Exnercomparing Ohio gerrymandering to other states has shown why change is not just possible but needed.