The Republican majority in the Ohio House failed last week to advance its revised plan for congressional district boundaries. Republicans need Democratic support to pass a new redistricting bill as an emergency measure, giving candidates time to meet a Dec. 7 filing deadline for the March primary, thus avoiding a separate primary in June for U.S. House and presidential candidates.
What happened to the redistricting bill rammed through the legislature on party-line votes in September? It was held up by a petition drive, Democrats moving to put the deeply partisan plan to a vote of the people next year. That, plus the $15 million cost of holding two primaries, should inspire a spirit of compromise.
Just how far the Republican caucus still must go to craft a deal was reinforced this week by Jim Slagle, the manager of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, an independent, nonpartisan organization. With talks stalled at the Statehouse, Speaker Bill Batchelder and his House caucus would do well to study Slagle’s analysis.
Slagle found that the new Republican plan fared only slightly better than the old one on a rating scale giving points for preserving local government boundaries, compactness and political competitiveness. The new plan split four fewer counties and created one additional district, in the Dayton area, that could be considered competitive. (The Republican index in the proposed 10th U.S. House District declined from 58 percent to 54 percent.) Overall, 12 of 16 districts lean Republican, most heavily so, just as in the first try.
Also telling is that both the old and revised Republican plans scored lower than all of the 53 alternatives submitted to Slagle’s organization. In other words, when it comes to representing real communities of interest and reflecting the true competitive character of Ohio politics, the Republican plans are both flops. Thankfully, there still is time for House Republicans to draw a better plan. They have many examples to follow.