- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A bipartisan panel tasked with recommending changes to how Ohio draws its political maps is weighing potential ideas to overhaul the process.

The state alters legislative and U.S. House district boundaries every 10 years to reflect population shifts identified by the U.S. Census. Members of both major political parties have described the current mapmaking process as flawed.

A panel of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission could recommend a new method that lawmakers may then put before voters to decide. One proposal would create a new panel that would redraw both congressional district and state legislative district maps and require one minority party vote for approval.

Currently, the Legislature decides congressional district lines. Boundaries for Ohio House and Senate districts are set by a five-member board of statewide officeholders and legislative appointees.

Some things to know about the mapmaking process and a proposal to change it:

TWO SEPARATE BODIES CURRENTLY DRAW LINES

Currently, the Legislature decides congressional district lines. Boundaries for Ohio House and state Senate districts are now set by a panel called the Apportionment Board. The board consists of the governor, secretary of state and state auditor, along with two appointees from legislative leaders. When legislative districts were last drawn in 2011, four of the five Apportionment Board members were Republicans. The panel voted on party lines and the GOP retained majorities in both chambers the following year.

PROPOSAL WOULD CREATE ONE COMMISSION TO DRAW MAPS

One plan before a committee of the Modernization Commission would create a new, seven-member panel to redraw both legislative and congressional districts. The Ohio Redistricting Commission would consist of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state and one person appointed by each of the four party leaders in the House and Senate. At least one minority party vote would be required for the maps to be approved.

IDEA WOULD ALLOW VOTERS TO CHALLENGE NEW MAPS

Congressional or legislative maps approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission could be challenged by voters in the form of a ballot referendum. If voters repeal the maps, the line-drawing panel would have to meet again and create new districts for the next election. Currently, voters can only refer congressional maps to the ballot.

CURRENT PROCESS HAS NOT BEEN WITHOUT CONFLICT

New legislative and congressional maps were put in place for the 2012 election. Democrats, who hold minorities in both state legislative chambers and on the Apportionment Board, sued over state legislative boundaries but lost their case. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the map on grounds that state’s Constitution does not require political neutrality in the process. The U.S. House lines also had been in limbo in 2011 until legislators compromised to avoid holding two primaries.

FUTURE OF REDISTRICTING CHANGES REMAIN UNCLEAR

The Modernization Commission committee plans to meet within a month to further discuss redistricting changes. Members could possibly vote to send a plan to the full commission for approval. But the committee’s chairman says it remains up in the air because lawmakers could decide to pass a plan without the commission’s recommendation. It’s unknown whether legislators will. Senate President Keith Faber told Gongwer News Service that his chamber is willing to move forward on a plan before the end of the year. The House might be less inclined.

___

Online:

Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission: https://www.ocmc.ohio.gov/

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide