Last year, Ohio voters overwhelmingly supported redistricting reform for the state legislature. More than 71% of voters approved Issue 1 “Fair Districts Ohio” in 2015, which passed in all 88 counties. Unfortunately, congressional redistricting reform hasn’t moved at the Ohio Statehouse.
The Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition is seeking public input on its congressional redistricting reform proposal. Please review the proposal, we’d love to hear your suggestions. Submit your recommendations in the comment section below or send Catherine Turcer an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for a PDF of the proposal.
Proposed Congressional Redistricting Reform Language
The underlined language below indicates proposed additions and deletions in Article XI of the text of the Ohio Constitution after the inclusion of amendments approved by 71% of Ohio voters as Issue 1 in November 2015. If there is no change, the language is not underlined or is not presented here, as indicated by ….
Ohio Constitution Article XI
Section 1. (A) The Ohio redistricting commission shall be responsible for the redistricting of this state for U.S. Congress and for the General assembly. The commission shall consist of the following seven members… [no changes in Divisions (A) (1) through (7)]
(8) No appointed member of the commission shall be a current member of Congress.
[No changes in Section 1 (B) (1) or Section 1(B) (2) (a) and (b)]
(B) (3) The affirmative vote of four members of the commission, including at least two members of the commission who represent each of the two largest political parties represented in the general assembly shall be required to adopt any congressional or general assembly district plan. [No changes in the remainder of this paragraph, or the first paragraph of Section 1 (C)]
(C) [second paragraph] The commission shall release to the public a proposed general assembly district plan for the boundaries for each of the ninety-nine house of representatives districts and the thirty-three senate districts. The commission shall also release to the public a proposed congressional district plan for the boundaries of the prescribed number of congressional districts as apportioned to the state pursuant to Section 2 of Article I of the Constitution of the United States. The commission shall draft the proposed plans in the manner prescribed in this article. [No change in the remainder of this paragraph]
[third paragraph] The commission shall adopt a final congressional district plan and a final general assembly district plan not later than the first day of September of a year ending in the numeral one. After the commission adopts a final plan, the commission shall promptly file the plan with the secretary of state. Upon filing with the secretary of state, the plan shall become effective
Four weeks after the adoption of a congressional district plan and a general assembly district plan the commission shall be automatically dissolved.
[Section 1 (D) is not changed]
Section 2. Each congressional district shall be entitled to a single representative in the United
States House of Representatives in each congress. [No changes in the remainder of this paragraph]
[Note: Insert a new Section 3, and the current Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 are renumbered Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, respectively.]
Section 3. (A) (1) The whole population of the state, as determined by the most recent federal decennial census, shall be divided by the number of congressional districts apportioned to the state pursuant to Section 2 of Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States, and the quotient shall be the congressional ratio of representation for ten years next succeeding such redistricting.
(2) The commission shall minimize the extent to which each congressional district's population differs from the congressional ratio of representation, as is practicable, while taking into account the criteria set forth in Section 3 (C) in the creation of congressional districts. The commission may include in a congressional district plan an explanation of the reason that any district contains a population that is not equal to the congressional ratio of representation.
(B) Any citizen of the United States permanently residing in the state of Ohio may submit a congressional district plan for the Ohio redistricting commission’s consideration. The office of the Ohio Secretary of State shall make available on request by any Ohio citizen the data and computer software needed to draw a legally valid map in accord with the criteria in division (B) of this Section.
(C) The Ohio redistricting commission shall draw congressional districts based on the following criteria.
(1) Every congressional district shall be composed of contiguous territory, and the boundary of each district shall be a single nonintersecting continuous line.
(2) Any congressional district plan shall comply with all applicable provisions of the constitutions of Ohio and the United States and of federal law.
(3) No congressional district plan shall be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a political party or candidate.
The Ohio redistricting commission shall seek to maximize representational fairness by adopting a plan whose statewide proportion of districts most closely corresponds to the partisan preferences of the voters of Ohio as measured by the statewide proportion of votes in state and federal partisan statewide general election results during the last ten years.
(4) (a) The Ohio redistricting commission shall, to the greatest extent practicable and consistent with divisions (2) and (3) of this section, minimize the number of splits of county, municipal corpora-tion, and township boundaries, in that order.
(b) Where feasible, no county, municipal corporation or township shall be split more than once.
(c) A county, municipal corporation, or township is considered to be split if any portion of its territory is not contained entirely within one district.
(d) For the purposes of this section, if a municipal corporation or township has territory in more than more county, the municipal corporation or township shall not be considered split so long as, within each county, all portions of that municipal corporation or township are contained with a single district.
(D) The Ohio redistricting commission shall establish and publicly announce a time period of at least two weeks for the public to submit plans for the commission’s consideration.
Section 4 [previously Section 7, which should be deleted]. Notwithstanding the fact that boundaries of counties, municipal corporations, and townships within a district may be changed, district boundaries for both the U.S. congress and the general assembly shall be created by using the boundaries of counties, municipal corporations, and townships as they exist at the time of the federal decennial census on which the redistricting is based.
Section 10 (A) The supreme court of Ohio or, with regard to congressional redistricting, an applicable federal court shall have exclusive, original jurisdiction in all cases arising under this article. [No changes in the remainder of this section.]
[Sections 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9 and 11 are unchanged]
The Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition seeks to reform the way Ohio's Congressional Districts are drawn with the goal of prohibiting, or at least reducing, partisan gerrymandering. Additionally, the Coalition seeks to increase fairness and accountability in the Congressional map-making process. The Coalition is currently urging the state legislature to place Congressional Redistricting Reform on the 2017 ballot.
On October 7, 2016, David Daley, the author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, reviewed his book about how the political strategies of Election 2010 set the stage for more GOP-dominated state legislatures. These legislatures then created the very targeted 2011 congressional gerrymander.
“The argument in this book is that the elections have indeed been rigged,” said Daley. “But in a very different way than what Donald Trump is talking about. They were rigged in an entirely legal fashion.”
Daley described gerrymandering as one of the oldest political tricks in the books and congressional races as uncompetitive.
Predictable Results: A Report from the League of Women Voters of Ohio Comparing 2011 Gerrymandering to the 2012 and 2014 Election Results found that the partisan makeup of congressional districts perfectly predicted the political party of the winner. Congressional districts that lean Republican were won by the Republican candidate in every single congressional race in both 2012 and 2014. Those congressional districts that lean Democratic were won by Democrats every single time.
And it doesn’t look like this year’s election will be any different. In September, the City Club of Cleveland announced that it was likely to cut back on debates because the congressional races are uncompetitive. The City Club reconsidered and is holding congressional debates on October 17, but incumbents have declined to participate.
Daley described the problem as cutting to the heart of representative democracy. He went on to elaborate, “It’s not a coincidence; it’s not a mistake. It’s because of the gerrymander, an ancient political trick but one which savvy Republicans strategists, bankrolled by dark money and aided by sophisticated data-mapping techniques, reinvented in 2010 and 2011 in thoroughly modern and unique new ways. Our democracy has been rewired at its most basic level. The lines or the political districts go long way to explain why our politics are so extreme and so broken.”
Republican strategist Chris Jankowski and his organization Republican State Leadership Committee targeted 2010 Statehouse races in swing states with the intention of influencing the mapmaking process in 2011. This REDMAP effort was unprecedented and continue to impact state legislative and congressional elections.
In 2010, the Democrats controlled the Ohio House of Representatives; the Republicans the Ohio Senate. In Ohio, $1 million was spent as part of the REDMAP strategy to influence the outcome of six Statehouse races. These efforts at least in part led to Republican control of both houses of the state legislature for the 2011 redistricting. The Ohio House and Senate have been under GOP-control since the 2010 election.
Daley drew attention to the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting’s Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report: The Elephant in the Room and a few email exchanges about making state legislative districts.
Troy Judy, then Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder's chief of staff, wrote September 16, 2011:
“Ray [DiRossi] was running a quick analysis of in-kind contributions made to house races over the last decade and thought you'd find it interesting which districts were on top.”
Mapmaker and consultant Ray DiRossi wrote back:
“…But we have made significant improvements to many HDs [House districts] on this list. Hopefully saving millions over the coming years.”
Mapmaker and consultant Heather Mann (Blessing) added to the email chain:
"It's 1AM—go to bed you political junkies.”
Less competitive Ohio House districts require fewer campaign donations — potentially saving the Ohio Republican Party millions of dollars.
Like Congress, the partisan makeup of the Ohio Senate perfectly predicted the winner’s political party in 2012 and 2014. While not perfect, the candidate of the political party favored in 97 out of 99 Ohio House districts in 2012 and 96 out of 99 in 2014 won. Ohio Senate and House district lines continue to be the best election indicator.
This event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. A special thank you to Co-President Susan Murnane.
By Catherine Turcer, policy analyst for Common Cause Ohio