COLUMBUS: A bipartisan proposal to change the way Ohio draws state legislative and congressional lines cleared the state Senate with almost unanimous support Thursday.
The joint resolution would create a seven-member commission to draw all maps, and at least one minority party member would have to approve the boundaries.
State Sen. Tom Sawyer, a member of the task force that came up with the redistricting proposal, was pleased to see the Senate’s overwhelming approval and hopes it is a sign the entire legislature will be receptive to adopting the resolution in the next session and putting it before voters.
“This had broad and deep support,” said Sawyer, D-Akron. “It’s simple. It draws clear, bright lines about redistricting.”
On the Senate floor, Sawyer explained the process that led to the resolution, including the meetings between him and three other senators interested in coming up with a new approach to redistricting. He then called on Sen. Frank LaRose to explain — in 30 seconds or less — what the resolution would do.
He said senators timed LaRose, R-Copley Twp., who was able to meet the time restriction. Colleagues rewarded him with applause, then voted 32-1 in favor.
Area state Sens. Larry Obhof, R-Montville Twp., and Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, joined the majority. Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander, was the lone dissenter.
LaRose said the group that worked on the joint resolution agreed from the beginning the plan needed to be easy to explain, which was one of the criticisms of state Issue 2, a redistricting proposal on this fall’s ballot that voters rejected overwhelmingly.
He said that issue failed because of its own flaws, not because people didn’t want to see the process change.
Under the joint resolution, a seven-member redistricting commission would be established: the governor, state auditor, secretary of state and four members whom legislative leaders in each chamber would appoint. None of the members could be a sitting member of the state legislature or Congress.
The commission would elect bipartisan co-chairs. To win approval, any plan would need at least five votes, including at least one vote from a commission member from the minority party.
LaRose thinks his Senate colleagues have their work cut out for them to gain the support they need in the House next year, where he expects resistance.
“Today was a clear demonstration that it can be done,” he said. “We did it in the Senate. We laid out a road map.”
Thursday was the last scheduled voting day for the state legislature.
State Sen. Keith Faber, who’s slated to become Senate president next year, apologized to the House for getting the plan to the chamber too late.
“We don’t expect you to vote on this this session,” said Faber, R-Celina. “But we do expect you to work with us next session to start with this template and get the job done.”