Tuesday May 8th is the May Primary Elections and for many voters, they will be making important decisions about who will be nominated to run for an elected seat for their party in the General Election in the fall.
But for unaligned voters or voters who have not registered as a Republican or Democrat, there aren’t many things to weigh in on; as a result, some may be tempted to skip a visit to the polls tomorrow.
If they do that, they will be missing an opportunity to weigh in on a new plan for how the map is drawn for determining U.S. congressional seats.
Back in February, the state legislature spent several weeks hashing out a deal that eventually received bi-partisan support.
The deal changes some of the rules for how the map is drawn, purportedly to be fairer and to limit gerrymandering.
The effort to get this done at the state level came as a result of pressure citizen organizations were putting on the lawmakers in the form of a plan of their own.
Lawmakers didn’t like that plan, so they got to work and came up with one of their own.
Had they not, the “fair districts” ballot initiative would have continued to gain steam and as of right now it is on hold until the outcome of tomorrow’s vote is realized.
Much, but not all of what is in the fair districts plan is found in the legislators plan up for consideration as Issue 1.
There has been no organized opposition to Issue 1, but not everyone supports it.
Back in February, the State Senate passed the resolution to put the plan on the May ballot unanimously, but afterward, State Senator Kenny Yuko said, “It may not even work.”
The next day, 10 State Representatives voted against putting the measure on the May ballot for various reasons; four of ‘no’ votes came from Republicans and several lawmakers were not present to cast their vote.
Ultimately it will be up to the citizens of Ohio to decide if they want the plan to go into effect or not.
If Issue 1 passes, the new procedure for drawing the congressional map that sends elected officials to represent us in the U.S. Congress would consist of 4 phases.
In Phase One the general assembly draws a 10-year map that requires the approval of 3/5ths of legislators including half the minority party.
If that fails, the process moves on to Phase Two where a redistricting commission draws a 10-year map that requires the approval of a simple majority of the commission including 2 minority members.
The commission is made up of the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Auditor of State, and two members from the Majority and Minority parties.
If that map fails to pass; the process moves to Phase Three where the general assembly tries again to draw a 10-year map that requires 3/5ths approval, but this time only 1/3 of the minority party needs to support it.
If that fails, the process moves to the fourth and final phase where the Majority party draws a 4-year map under stricter line drawing rules dictating how cities, villages, and townships can be divided. This phase also carries a requirement to explain why they drew the lines where they did.
During Phases 1 through 3 the map drawing rules state most counties must remain whole; 65 counties cannot be split, 18 counties can have one line drawn through them, and 5 counties can have two lines drawn through them. It will be up to the map drawer to determine which counties will be split and there is explicit requirement that the number of splits fall to the largest counties.
It is likely we will see the largest 3 or 4 counties falling into the 2-split category, but some lawmakers are concerned that the 5th largest county, Montgomery, will not and the majority party may seek to put Lucas or Lorain counties in that group of 5 counties that will get split twice as a way to carve up Democrat voting blocs giving an advantage to Republican candidates.
Other line-drawing rules in Phases 1 through 3 insist that districts must be compact, and there will be public hearings and opportunities for maps drawn by members of the public to be submitted.
Phases 1, 3 and 4 are all subject to the Governor’s veto power or citizen referendum.
League of Women Voters of Ohio executive director Jennifer Miller says, “It’s not a perfect plan, I’m not even sure there can be a perfect plan, but it’s a good plan and it’s far better than what we have today.”
Some experts claim the current rules under which the current map was drawn have resulted in one of the most gerrymandered maps we have seen in decades.
“The way congressional districts are now drawn is hyper-partisan,” said Miller. “Really the majority party gets to draw the districts in a way that benefits them politically.”
If Issue 1 passes the new map would go into effect in 2021, if it does not the League of Women Voters of Ohio says they are prepared to take their ballot initiative off the shelf and continue to push for that plan on the November ballot.