On Tuesday, voters will be asked for the third time in a decade to overhaul the inherently political process of how Ohio redraws state legislative districts every 10 years. Voters said “no” the first two times. This time a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and business, labor, government watchdog, and voting-rights groups that have often aligned on opposite sides of the issue have come together to urge voters to say “yes” on Issue 1. Many are already looking ahead at a similar bipartisan approach with congressional remapping if this one affecting only state House and Senate maps passes. “Fair districts mean fair elections,” said Catherine Turcer, policy analyst with Common Cause Ohio. “Issue 1 creates greater transparency, keeps communities together, and establishes a bipartisan plan. I look at Issue 1 as a reform decades in the making. There is general agreement that this is the proposal that will make a real change.”
Today, state legislative districts are redrawn by the Ohio Apportionment Board following each U.S. Census to adjust for population shifts over the prior decade. The board consists of the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and two lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle.
Whichever party controls the process has often “gerrymandered” odd-shaped districts to give itself partisan advantage. Republicans have held the pen in the last two cycles, and today they hold super-majorities of 65-34 in the House and 23-10 in the Senate.
Issue 1 would amend the Ohio Constitution to expand the renamed Ohio Redistricting Commission with two more legislative appointees from opposite political stripes. It would require at least two votes from the minority party to adopt a new map that would hold for the next decade.