The Ohio General Assembly made history early Friday morning when the Senate passed a House-backed redistricting reform plan before adjourning for the session. State lawmakers have debated how to change to Ohio’s process for drawing legislative and congressional districts since 1978 but have never come to an agreement. The Senate voted 28-1 just after 4 a.m. to accept an amended bipartisan plan passed by the House last week. House Joint Resolution 12 now goes to the House for final approval, which is expected next week. If approved, the plan would go before voters in November 2015 for approval to be added to the Ohio Constitution. Friday’s vote followed days of discussion behind closed doors with few signs a compromise would be reached before the Senate adjourned this week. The Senate recessed from the last planned session at 8:30 p.m. so members could caucus with their parties and redistricting language could be drafted. An agreement was reached shortly after 1:30 a.m. Friday.
Senate President Keith Faber said this morning he is 85 percent sure there will be agreement on a legislative redistricting plan that his chamber will pass on Thursday. The House last week passed a redistricting plan with broad bipartisan support that would create a seven-member commission to draw legislative districts. For the maps to take effect for 10 years, they would need approval from at least two minority party members on the commission. Otherwise, the maps must be redrawn again in four years. Under the current system, the party that controls the five-member board gerrymanders districts to its benefit. The House-passed plan provides new criteria on how legislative districts should be drawn, which supporters say reduces the ability to split up communities and gerrymander districts. It also says the commission should attempt to draw maps that do not favor one political party, and create a legislature that reasonably reflects the political makeup of the voting public, a concept known as representational fairness.
A House-passed budget provision that would have cost Ohio universities about $370 million a year in tuition payments is likely to be removed by the Senate, but that doesn’t mean the issue of out-of-state students voting in Ohio is dead. House Republicans last month put an amendment in the budget that would require universities to charge in-state tuition rates for out-of-state students who are given college documentation so they can vote in Ohio. The idea has drawn sharp criticism from university leaders, who do not want to be put in the middle of a political voting controversy, say they cannot afford the lost tuition revenue, and argue it would make the system unfair for in-state students whose families help subsidize state colleges through taxes.
The Ohio Senate moved what was thought to be a fairly noncontroversial election bill yesterday, but it drew Democratic opposition for what some argued was a failure to fully address an issue that leads to some votes being tossed out. The bill was described as general clean-up provisions that include increasing flexibility for county elections boards, notifying candidates who have identical names, and allowing county elections boards to send certain documents to the secretary of state electronically. Senate Bill 109 also makes it clear that if a person casting an absentee or provisional ballot double votes by filling in the name of the candidate and also writing in the same candidate, the vote will be counted.
Despite calls for urgency from fellow Republicans, the Ohio House and its leader are pumping the breaks on the latest round of legislation that would overhaul how Ohio draws its election maps. Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said passing a plan that would require both Republicans and Democrats to sign off on congressional and state legislative districts is a top priority. The Ohio Senate approved that plan 32-1 in December. Senators reintroduced a bipartisan new version in the new legislative session that began this year. “I’d expect the senate to act soon,” Faber said. But the Ohio House, led by Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, is taking a more deliberate approach. Rather than address the Senate plan directly in the legislature, Batchelder has decided that redistricting reform should be first taken up by the Constitutional Modernization Commission, a 32-member advisory body that meets four times a year. The commission has 10 years to recommend changes to Ohio’s constitution. Any changes would ultimately require the approval of the legislature.
In a surprise move, Republican lawmakers added provisions that would require Ohio voters to present photo identification at the polls to an elections bill that could be approved by a Senate committee Wednesday.
The bill puts them at odds with Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, whose office released a statement condemning the action. And if the bill becomes law, Ohio Democrats will seek legal action to have it ruled unconstitutional.
The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee is taking up the photo ID provision as a part of a larger elections bill that would move Ohio’s presidential primary from March to May and would reduce the number of days allowed for in-person early voting.
Ohio: Senate Republicans add controversial photo ID requirement to election reform bill | cleveland.com
Senate Republicans today added a provision requiring a photo ID at the polls to a comprehensive election reform package that lawmakers are expected to approve within days. Democrats, blind-sided by the addition, said the requirement would disenfranchise voters, particularly in urban areas.
“They’re trying to suppress the vote in these areas,” Sen. Shirley Smith, a Cleveland Democrat said. “I think this is a really tough game they’re playing.”
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives approved a bill requiring photo ID at the polls in March — over the objections of House Democrats, the League of Women Voters and AARP Ohio.
A bill overhauling Ohio election law cleared the Senate today over Democratic objections, and Senate leaders said they did not expect major problems meshing their plan with one passed last week by the House. Voters would get less time to vote early, online voter registration would be developed and a handful of counties, including Franklin,…