We Are Ohio, the coalition that led the successful referendum campaign last year against Senate Bill 5, will join others on a new petition drive, this time to put a constitutional amendment concerning redistricting on the November ballot. The amendment is the work of Voters First Ohio, a nonpartisan group backed by the League of Women Voters of Ohio, among others.
Members of We Are Ohio grasp the essential connection between S.B. 5, a measure that would have gutted the collective bargaining rights of public employees, and the highly partisan way in which Ohio redraws legislative districts after each census. They see districts unfairly tilted toward Republicans producing extreme legislation.
Unfortunately, the powerful, labor-backed coalition is throwing its money and volunteers behind an overly complicated plan to create a citizens commission to draw both legislative and congressional boundaries.
Under current law, legislative districts are created by the state apportionment board, made up of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and a Republican and Democratic legislator. Since Republicans hold all three statewide offices, they easily dominated the process. Congressional districts, also titled in favor of Republicans, were created by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Rather than setting up a cumbersome process to seek citizens free from political influence to craft districts using complex standards such as compactness, political balance and competitiveness, the best way forward is to alter the existing process to make sure that a supermajority is necessary to approve new districts.
By requiring the support of the minority party for legislative and congressional maps, districts more reflective of the true balance between Republicans and Democrats in the state would be achieved. Such districts would be more likely to produce legislators willing to compromise rather than slam through partisan measures.