A bipartisan House plan to change the way Ohio draws legislative districts drew high marks from an election-law expert who three weeks ago had no kind words for the House Republicans’ initial proposal. The compromise plan “would be a very significant improvement over the status quo,” said Dan Tokaji, professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Unlike the current system, in which the party that controls at least three of the five seats on the apportionment board can rig the legislative districts to protect its majority and create a host of noncompetitive districts, Tokaji said the new plan contains a number of improvements. “Redistricting reform goes to our fundamental right to vote,” he said. “If lines are drawn in such a way that virtually every general-election contest for the legislature is meaningless and we know the outcome in advance, that destroys voters’ faith in the system.”
Maps are drawn every 10 years, after a census. Under the House-passed plan, a 10-year map would need the support of two minority-party members of a seven-member commission to pass.
A map passed without minority-party votes would have to be redrawn again in four years; in that time, statewide elections could change the majority on the commission.
The plan, Tokaji and other supporters argue, provides clearer criteria on how legislative districts should be drawn, reducing the ability to split up communities. It also says the commission should attempt to draw maps that do not favor one political party, and that create a legislature that reasonably reflects the political makeup of the voting public, a concept known as representational fairness.