Ohio Senate passes major changes to congressional redistricting


State lawmakers and a coalition of good government groups are on the verge of remaking the way Ohio draws its congressional district maps, after weeks of furious and fitful behind-the-scenes negotiations.

The Ohio Senate voted 31-0 on the plan which now heads to the Ohio House, which is planning a Tuesday vote.

The Senate Government Oversight Committee voted 11-0 in favor of the deal struck Monday afternoon.

RELATED: Democrats reject GOP plan on redistricting

“It’s nice we’re finally putting this to bed after 150 years of fighting about it, particularly over the last 40 years,” said state Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, a chief player in the negotiations.

Ohio Environmental Council Director Heather Taylor-Miesle, a lead negotiator for a coalition of good government groups seeking reforms, said the new system will lead to more responsive representatives in Congress. “I think in 2022, you’ll see a lot more competitive districts. People are not going to be able to take their citizens for granted anymore.”

The Ohio General Assembly will retain control over the map making but the majority party will no longer be able to push through a map without any support from the minority party. The latest plan calls for a three-stage process for drawing Ohio’s congressional maps following the U.S. census every 10 years.

The General Assembly would be able to pass a 10-year congressional district map provided they have three-fifths vote, including at least half of the minority and majority party members, in each chamber.

If they fail to do so by September 30 of the year following the census, the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission would take over map making. If the commission fails to agree on a 10-year map by Oct. 31, the responsibility goes back to the General Assembly, which can pass 10-year or 4-year maps, by Nov. 30.

The four-year maps would face restrictions: no unduly favoring or disfavoring a political party or incumbents; limiting splits of counties; and a public explanation for why the map was drawn in a particular way.

“I think in general the concept of having a four-year map is undesirable to most folks because it creates a lot of chaos,” Huffman said. “I think for the public, having changes in congressional districts and who their representative is is generally not a good idea….That’s why we wanted plenty of opportunity to get a 10-year map somewhere along the line.”

Any map would be subject to voter referenda and a governor’s veto.

If lawmakers agree by Wednesday, the proposed state constitutional amendment will be placed on the May 8 primary ballot.

Taylor-Miesle said Fair Districts = Fair Elections, the coalition of reform seekers, isn’t necessarily abandoning its effort to collect more than 300,000 valid voter signatures by July 4 to place a different constitutional amendment before voters in November. She noted that effort may continue as a back-stop in case the Huffman plan doesn’t win voter approval in May.

Related: Ohio may change the way congressional lines are drawn

“I don’t know what we’ll do. We just have to make the call. We have not had that discussion at this point,” she said.

Taylor-Miesle said the negotiations at times took an unusual path. “This is the first time in my career I’ve ever had to negotiate via text sometimes in the middle of a Super Bowl and all that kind of fun stuff.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Ohio lawmaker’s comprehensive approach to addiction crisis: What is it?
Ohio lawmaker’s comprehensive approach to addiction crisis: What is it?

The package of bills being pushed by Ohio Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, to address an “outside-the-box” approach to the opioid crisis is broken into four areas. Butler, who is up for re-election this fall, says he intends to introduce a series of bills that would touch on various aspects of the crisis that has crippled the state. It could...
Most Republican congressional seats in Ohio safe, but Dems see opportunities
Most Republican congressional seats in Ohio safe, but Dems see opportunities

For Democrats, the magic number is 23. That’s the number of U.S. House seats they need to win to regain the majority for the first time since 2010. “It won’t be easy,” concedes Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan. “We’re going to have to fight for every inch. For his part Rep. Steve Stivers...
Ohio lawmaker pushes for comprehensive approach in addiction crisis
Ohio lawmaker pushes for comprehensive approach in addiction crisis

It may not be a guaranteed fix to the opioid crisis, but a Dayton-area lawmaker plans to introduce a “comprehensive approach” to addressing the epidemic that has killed nearly 12,000 Ohioans from 2015-2017. Ohio Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, who is up for re-election this fall, plans to introduce a comprehensive package of bills that will...
In the Senate, the math still favors the GOP
In the Senate, the math still favors the GOP

If you are really interested in finding out which party wins control of the U.S. Senate next month, better plan on staying up late on Nov. 6. Although there are key races in the eastern time zone — West Virginia, New Jersey and Florida among them — control of the Senate probably won’t be decided until votes are counted in North Dakota...
Where Ohio governor candidates stand on charter school oversight
Where Ohio governor candidates stand on charter school oversight

Richard Cordray, Democrat: Prohibit for-profit companies from operating charter schools. Increase regulations on charter schools to bring them more in line with the requirements for Ohio’s traditional public schools. Fund charter schools directly from the state, instead of passing them through local public school districts in a process that costs...
More Stories