By Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio
This month our state lawmakers kicked off the 132nd Ohio General Assembly. At the beginning of the month, Governor John Kasich announced his intention to include congressional redistricting reform in his state budget bill. The state budget was introduced today but without a fix for gerrymandering.
We’ve made a lot of headway on redistricting reform but congressional redistricting is still left undone.
In November 2015, voters established the bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission and new rules for state legislative mapmaking including a prohibition on gerrymandering or manipulating districts for partisan advantage. This reform won the support of more than 71% of voters and won in all 88 counties.
What’s good for the Statehouse is good for Congress but state law makers fail to act. On January 4, the Akron Beacon Journal called new Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof to action in an editorial titled New Face, Same Statehouse Opposition to Redistricting Reform.
The Columbus Dispatch joined in with:
“The new Ohio Senate president has gotten off to an inauspicious start, signaling that he sees no need for the legislature to change the way congressional district maps are drawn - currently by the party in power, and by zigzagging boundaries through and around communities to pack districts with friendly voters and scatter the opposition, diluting their franchise.”
Small town newspapers including the Steubenville’s Herald-Star urged legislators to work on redistricting reform. And Sunday's Canton Repository highlighted the need for reform:
Ohioans have shown appetite for such changes - not because they're good for one party or another, but because they're best for democracy. We hope state lawmakers see it that way, too, and act to reform how congressional districts are drawn ahead of 2021.”
On Sunday, the Dayton Daily News’ Lynn Hulsey provided an overview of the problem with manipulated congressional districts and the challenge for reform and the solution that Common Cause Ohio is working on:
“Although the GOP currently controls the process, and 12 of the 16 congressional seats, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Secretary of State Jon Husted — both Republicans — have both advocated for a fairer system for determining how the boundaries are drawn.
But interviews with key Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly show some have little interest in relinquishing power over the congressional map.
‘The authority to draw congressional districts lies with the legislature,’ said John Fortney, spokesman for State Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina.
Fortney said his boss is willing to discuss changes, but ‘any attempt to weaken the power of the legislature also weakens the voice of Ohioans who elected their senators and representatives to make those decisions.’”
For context—The Ohio Redistricting Commission which is tasked with state legislative redistricting includes four members of the state legislature (a member or appointee of each of the following: the Speaker of the Ohio, the Minority Leader of the Ohio House, Ohio Senate President and the Senate Minority Leader). Other members include the Governor, the Secretary of State and the Auditor.
After two years of legislative inaction on congressional redistricting reform, the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition will keep pushing forward on placing reform on the ballot ourselves until such time as the legislature gets serious about putting real reform before voters.
We need your help! Please volunteer to help make congressional redistricting reform a reality. Want to help but not sure what you can do? Please call the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition at 614-259-8388.
Carrie Davis, League of Women Voters of Ohio
Fellow redistricting reformers, our efforts got a real boost yesterday! All of us have been abuzz about Governor John Kasich announcing that he wants congressional redistricting reform in the state budget bill. Many of you have probably seen it already, but in case you haven’t, click here for “Kasich wants congressional redistricting reform in state budget” from today’s Columbus Dispatch.
Gov. Kasich has long been a proponent of Congressional gerrymandering reform. He included it in last year’s State of the State address. You can watch the video clip here.
We need to capitalize on this opportunity and turn up the volume on the need for Congressional redistricting reform NOW. Here are some ways you can take action:
Other articles about Gov. Kasich and his plan to tackle gerrymandering:
by Carrie Davis, League of Women Voters of Ohio
The Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition was formed in August 2015 by good government groups, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause Ohio, to support passage of the 2015 state ballot Issue 1 to reform redistricting, which was placed on the ballot by the legislature. This bipartisan redistricting proposal created a fairer and more transparent process for drawing state legislative districts, but it did not include Congressional districts. Our work on redistricting reform led to 2015's state Issue 1 passing by a landslide 71.5% of the vote, winning by a wide majority in all of Ohio's 88 counties.
Ohio’s current winner-take-all method of Congressional district drawing leaves one political party in charge of mapmaking – that means district lines are manipulated to marginalize the other party and create elections where one party is virtually guaranteed to win. The Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition advocates for extending the state fair district rules approved in 2015 to Congress Too. We have urged the state legislature to place reform for Congress Too before voters, but, when the legislature refused to act, the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition put forward a reform proposal.
We invited public comment on our proposal, and it has improved thanks to public input. Now we are asking community leaders and voters for their support and recommendations in Fair Districts for Congress Too.
The Fair Districts for Congress Too proposal:
How can you help?
Read more about the Fair Districts Coalition’s invitation for public input:
Editorials in support of Congressional Redistricting reform: