A group of Ohioans wants to try to change the state Constitution by creating a 15-member citizen-appointed panel to draw state legislative and congressional maps removing that power from the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission is a seven-member body created to draw districts for the Ohio House and Senate.
Under the proposed constitutional amendment submitted to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on Monday, current and former politicians, political party officials, lobbyists, and certain large political donors would be prohibited from serving on the new “Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission.” The commission would consist of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents from across the state and it would be prohibited from drawing districts that favor one party or politician over the others.
The Ohio coalition known as “Citizens Not Politicians,” which includes Republican former Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Democratic former Justice Yvette McGee Brown, said they want to put the constitutional amendment on the November 2024 ballot.
According to McGee Brown, removing politicians is the only way to get fair redistricting.
“The politicians who control the current redistricting commission have ignored the will of Ohioans who want a fair and honest system. The only way to get a fair outcome for Ohioans is to remove political insiders from the process,” McGee Brown said.
The Ohio Supreme Court rejected the more recent of two congressional maps created by Republicans in July. Ohio used the earlier GOP-designed map for its 2022 primary and won’t use an updated one until 2024. The Redistricting Commission redraws the legislative and congressional maps every 10 years to reflect demographic changes following the U.S. Census.
Republican state legislators appealed the Supreme Court ruling on congressional redistricting to the U.S. Supreme Court in October.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a summary judgment, a decision made without listening to oral arguments, reversing the Ohio Supreme Court’s judgment from last July that the congressional districting process unfairly favored the Republican Party.
John Fortney, a spokesman for Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and the Ohio Senate Republicans, told The Ohio Star that commissions are never truly independent, and if the amendment passes, Ohioans would be replacing elected officials with citizens who are unaccountable to the public.
“So-called citizen-led commissions are anything but that. They are proxy votes and puppets of partisan special interest groups like (former Democratic Attorney General) Eric Holder’s NDRC (National Democratic Redistricting Committee),” Fortney told The Star.
Attorney General Dave Yost has 10 days to approve or reject the constitutional amendment’s summary language before sending it to the Ohio Ballot Board. The Ballot Board would then have to adopt the language on the petition, and the coalition would have to gather 413,487 valid signatures by July 3rd to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.
The constitutional amendment only needs a simple majority to pass since Ohio voters defeated Ohio State Issue 1 last week, which aimed to increase the threshold to amend the state Constitution.
According to Ohio Secretary of State and candidate for U.S. Senate Frank LaRose, the assault on the state Constitution is just beginning with the defeat of State Issue 1.
“As I’ve predicted for months now, the assault on our state constitution is just beginning. If only we had a requirement that would ensure a broad, bipartisan consensus of Ohioans before something like this gets jammed into our state constitution,” LaRose said.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star, The Star News Network, and The Arizona Sun Times. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ohio Capitol” by Joseph. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.