As state lawmakers debate Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 5, a Republican-led proposal to change the way Ohio draws its legislative districts, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus today urged state lawmakers to consider amending the bill to address concerns many voting rights and redistricting reform experts have regarding SJR 5.
“Gerrymandering has turned the idea of the ballot box being America’s great equalizer on its head, allowing politicians to choose their voters rather than having voters choose their politicians,” said OLBC President and state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “SJR 5 only makes what’s wrong with current law worse. SJR 5 keeps the authority to redraw districts within the state legislature and eliminates key controls that seek to end rigged districts and give Ohio voters fair representation.”
Democrats and redistricting reform advocates have argued this plan allows for political manipulation of the redistricting process.
“Our goal isn’t to limit ways a map can be gerrymandered,” said State Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron). “Our goal is to end gerrymandering all together, and SJR 5 doesn’t accomplish that.” Sen. Sykes is a member of the Congressional Redistricting Workgroup, a bipartisan group of lawmakers charged with finding ways to reform Ohio’s congressional redistricting process. “Ohioans spoke loud and clear in 2015 when they overwhelmingly supported common sense reforms to the way we draw state districts and we want to replicate that effort.”
Ohio voters submitted and overwhelmingly approved Issue 1, a 2015 ballot initiative to remove the state legislature from drawing its own seats, and instead placing that authority in the hands of the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
SJR 5 keeps the congressional map-drawing authority with legislators in the General Assembly. The plan would be approved with a three-fifths majority of lawmakers, including one third of the minority party. Should the body fail to approve the plan, the Ohio Redistricting Commission would create either a 10-year map with minority consent or a four-year map without. A four-year map could become a 10-year map if approved by the General Assembly.
If approved by the General Assembly, SJR 5 would head to a ballot to be considered by Ohio voters later this year.