Ohio’s historic congressional redistricting reform: Frank LaRose
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hey Washington, look what’s happening in the heartland. We’re working together to solve problems, and we are governing.
For years, Ohioans have recognized the need to reform the winner-take-all process for redistricting following the census every ten years. Under the current process, the party with the majority draws the maps as they see fit, with no need for input from the minority party. Historically, this has resulted in partisan excesses regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats held the pen. The voters of Ohio wanted us to put people before partisanship and work to address this seemingly intractable problem. Thankfully, we did.
In a historic move earlier this month, Ohio Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a redistricting reform proposal.
Congressional redistricting plan passes Ohio House, will appear on May ballot
The hard work and dedication from the Ohioans advocating for fair districts was instrumental in bringing the discussion to the fore.
While it may seem that the spirit of statesmanship and compromise is dead in American politics, Ohio’s efforts to improve the current system is a shining example that good governance is possible when partisanship takes a backseat.
I have spent much of the last eight years working on this issue, often trying to bridge the partisan divide and bring people together around this sometimes esoteric but always significant issue. In fact, I introduced legislation last March which helped form the basis for the resolution passed this week.
As a longtime proponent of reform, I’ve often been asked: “The current process has benefited your party over the last two decades; why do you want to mess with it?”
This issue has resonated with me because I believe competition makes us stronger. I want my party to win elections because we have better candidates and better ideas – not because we use modern GIS mapping software and pinpoint-accurate polling data to draw district lines better than the other party.
Now that both chambers in the Ohio General Assembly have passed Senate Joint Resolution 5, Ohioans get to vote on the plan in the May primary.
Here is what you should know…
The reform keeps communities together by limiting divisions of counties, townships and municipalities. The plan seeks to create reasonably compact districts by specifying that at least 65 of the 88 counties will be kept whole, and limits how many total county splits can occur.
Additional safeguards are put in place to prevent unnecessary splitting of Ohio’s municipalities and townships.
For example, large cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati will remain whole within their districts.
The plan also includes important protections to assure that Voting Rights Act principles are upheld in Ohio.
Finally, significant measures are taken to assure that the process is transparent throughout and inclusive of public input when it’s time to draw the maps.
The plan for a 10-year map requires significant support from both parties, ensuring a fair process with bipartisan approval.
Step one: A map proposed by the General Assembly requires a three-fifths vote in each chamber, with at least half of the minority party’s vote. If that is not reached, the process moves to the bipartisan Redistricting Commission, which Ohio voters approved in 2015.
Step two: A map drawn by the seven-member commission requires two minority votes to pass. If that fails, the map-drawing responsibility moves back to the state legislature.
Step three: A map requires a three-fifths vote in each chamber with a one-third vote of the minority party. If this doesn’t occur, a map can be passed with a simple majority, but triggers significant safeguards to protect against partisan excess, and that map will only be in place for four years, during which time the balance of power could change.
Our work to improve congressional redistricting embodies the spirit of civility and compromise that voters want to see from their elected officials.
Benjamin Franklin, responding to a woman’s question after the 1787 Constitutional Convention as to what would be the form of our government, said, “a Republic, if you can keep it.”
There is no magic formula or perfectly unbiased panel of experts to call upon for redistricting. The process relies on sensible leaders, accountable to the citizens, who will work in good faith to compromise on reasonable maps that do not unduly benefit a narrow political interest. It takes people to keep it.
If this plan receives final approval, it will ultimately fall to the people charged with carrying out this process to do so in the same spirit of compromise with which it was drafted. We’ve created a balanced redistricting process, it will be up to the people of Ohio to keep it.
Frank LaRose is a state senator representing Wayne County and parts of Stark and Summit counties, and the Republican candidate for Ohio Secretary of State.
Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on February 18th, 2018.
Read the original article here.