Ohio voters made it crystal clear last year that they want state legislative districts fairly drawn when they voted to end gerrymandering. State and national experts joined forces today to urge Ohio to complete the redistricting reforms by fixing the Congressional map.
“Ohioans demonstrated that reform is possible. But don’t leave the job half finished,’’ redistricting reform expert Michael Li of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University told a Columbus news conference. “Hyper-partisan congressional gerrymandering has serious consequences including uncompetitive elections and partisan gridlock.”
Nearly 72 percent of voters supported State Issue 1 last year, a bipartisan plan that prohibits gerrymandering of state legislative districts.
Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio echoed this sentiment, “What’s good for the Statehouse is good for congress. Let’s fix congressional gerrymandering now. It’s time to focus on what’s best for the voters.”
Congress wasn’t included in the legislative proposal that became 2015’s Issue 1.
At the time, Republican legislative leaders insisted that they wanted to wait for a US Supreme Court decision affecting redistricting, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The court case is over. The court ruled that it is constitutional to use a commission to craft congressional and state legislative districts.
Now that the Arizona case is no longer an issue, state GOP leaders have found a new excuse to do nothing: Let’s wait and see how the state reforms work.
If Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger gets his way, the soonest a reformed procedure for U.S. House districts might be in place would be after the 2030 census, most likely for 2032.
The Akron Beacon Journal called this “Speaker Rosenberger’s 17-year plan to fix the redrawing of U.S. House districts in Ohio.’’ It also called his notion “unacceptable.’’
The GOP’s reluctance to act is understandable because Republicans drew today’s congressional boundaries, which are even more misshapen than state legislative districts. Democrats are packed into urban districts, creating favorable territory for Republicans in the suburbs and beyond. In 2012, Republican candidates received just 51 percent of the overall vote but won 12 seats, or 75 percent. Two years later, Republican candidates captured 57 percent of the vote and kept their 12 seats.
There are two congressional redistricting reform proposals that mirror the Issue 1:
Senate Joint Resolution 2, sponsored by state Senators Frank LaRose (R-Copley) and Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), and
House Joint Resolution 2, sponsored by state Representatives Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Mike Curtin (D-Columbus).
The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission’s Legislative Branch and Executive Branch Committee has been considering redistricting reform proposals since 2011. At the last meeting on April 14, Chair Fred Mills established no deadline for advancing proposed reforms.