Bipartisan legislation regarding Congressional redistricting passes

by Zach Backiewicz, ’19

Ohio Issue 1, the Congressional Redistricting Procedures Amendment, was on the ballot in Ohio as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on May 8, 2018. This measure was approved with roughly 75 percent of the voters deciding yes on the ballot

Currently, the Ohio General Assembly votes to draw new congressional districts lines every 10 years. This current process gives the majority political party more influence in drawing the congressional lines. In 2011, Republican state lawmakers with the assistance of party consultants created Ohio’s districts consisting of 12 Republican districts and only 4 Democratic districts. As a result, Ohio is considered among the most gerrymandered maps in the country.

Though after the approval of Issue 1, the redistricting process in Ohio will experience major changes. The measure requires the state legislature to adopt a 10-year congressional redistricting plan with 60 percent of members in each chamber voting in favor and 50 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats voting in favor. If the state legislature would fail to meet these criteria, then the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission, established via Issue 1 in 2015, would get a chance to adopt a 10-year congressional redistricting plan, with support from at least two members of the minority party.

Issue 1 received support from both the Republican and Democratic political parties, striving to achieve the goal of bipartisanship. Republican State Senator was one of the many supports of Issue 1.

“I think it largely enshrines the process that we have,” Huffman said. “It still leaves it in the hands of the majority party in the legislature, because people elected the majority party to make these decisions. But it also enshrines the concept of minority rights.”

Therefore if the first two options fail to meet the requirements of drawing new congressional districts, the process would be handed back to the state legislature but bipartisanship would still be necessary to pass a map – at least one-third of each party’s members would have to vote for it, to pass it and send it for the governor’s signature. And the final option to redrawing the congressional lines would result in the legislature adopting a plan through a simple majority vote, with no bipartisan vote requirement but stricter criteria, and with the plan lasting two general election cycles (four years), rather than 10 years.

Issue 1 was the only statewide ballot on the 2018 Primary Election ballot. Common Cause, a group in which focuses on providing for a bipartisan democracy, pushed two recent ballot issues on redistricting, in 2005 and 2012, both of which failed. However, in 2015 Catherine Turcer, the Executive Director for Common Cause Ohio and an expert on redistricting reform finally found success when voters approved a bipartisan commission developed with state lawmakers to redraw state House and state Senate districts.

Since redistricting occurs during every decennial U.S. Census, Issue 1 will take effect on January 1, 2021, and apply to congressional redistricting following the 2020 U.S. Census.