In the wake of the defeat of state Issue 2, a constitutional amendment that would have placed the task of drawing congressional and legislative districts in the hands of a citizens commission, a broad consensus survived. Republican and Democratic leaders agreed that the current process must be fixed, the unbalanced outcomes when one party seizes control of redistricting unhealthy in such an evenly divided state.
New districts, drawn by Republicans, were in effect this year, with predictable results. Statewide, President Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown were re-elected, but the state’s delegation to the U.S. House will include 12 Republicans and just four Democrats. In races for the Ohio House, more voters cast ballots for Democrats than Republicans, but Republicans are likely to have 60 seats, to 39 for the Democrats.
Last week came welcome news that a legislative task force is close to agreement on an amendment that would produce different results. Rather than rely on a citizens commission operating under needlessly complex rules for creating improved districts, legislators are crafting a plan based on the work of a bipartisan group of four colleagues, among them Sens. Frank LaRose, a Copley Township Republican, and Tom Sawyer, an Akron Democrat. Both are now on the task force.
They have in mind a bipartisan commission of state politicians, with a supermajority needed to approve a plan, including votes from the minority party. Neither side could ever gain complete control. The commission also would be in charge of drawing new U.S. House districts. Jon Husted, the secretary of state, is a supporter, his own ideas laying the right groundwork.
As part of the compromise, Democrats must drop the idea of drawing new lines before the next census, an unprecedented step in Ohio. Republicans, too, must bend, quashing the idea of the job going to a constitutional modernization commission expected to take years to perform its review.
Quick action is crucial. Action this week, likely the last of the lame-duck session, would set the stage for a statewide vote next year — before attention turns to the 2014 campaign.