State Representatives Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Mike Curtin (D-Marble Cliff) today introduced a congressional redistricting reform proposal to put before voters.
In 2011, Congressional district boundaries were passed with almost no input from the public. The original GOP district plan split more than 200 Ohio counties, cities and townships. After an attempted citizens’ referendum of that unfair map, a second plan was passed but with only the mildest of improvements. The plan predictably has resulted in Ohio’s congressional delegation breaking 75 percent Republican and 25 percent Democratic, even though vote totals for candidates from the two parties appear much more competitive across the state.
Last year, HJR 12, a plan to reform state legislative redistricting passed both chambers with large bipartisan majorities and will go before the voters this fall. The proposal introduced today by Reps. Clyde and Curtin closely aligns with HJR 12 with small modifications to the population requirements as required by federal law and to the geographic criteria to accommodate larger congressional districts. The new proposal includes strong incentives for bipartisan agreement, strict limits on the splitting of communities, and prohibits drawing districts primarily to favor a political party.
“Our current congressional redistricting process disenfranchises Ohio citizens,” said Rep. Clyde. “We live under a plan that packs Democrats and African Americans into 4 of our 16 districts. In this 50-50 state, we have a 75-25 split in our congressional delegation. The way we draw congressional districts today allows state lawmakers to break apart communities and dilute the power of millions of Ohioans’ votes. Meaningful reform is needed to give our constituents better representation and greater transparency and accountability from their government. Our proposal will add fairness and common sense to the district-drawing process.”
“In my years as an observer of state government, I have seen dysfunction in Ohio and Washington grow to an all-time high, and it is a direct result of partisan gerrymandering,” said Rep. Curtin. “Lawmakers have stopped responding to the will of a majority of people because they only have to be accountable to a small faction of one party. The time for reform could never be greater, and doing it sooner rather than later is critically important. I am hopeful that we can take the legislature’s bipartisan agreement to reform state line-drawing one step further and give the voters the chance to approve congressional redistricting reform as well.”
When HJR 12 passed the General Assembly, GOP lawmakers said the congressional reform process must be put on hold until the Supreme Court issues a decision in the case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Although many experts believe the holding in that case will not apply in Ohio, today’s plan includes a clause addressing that concern. In the event that the Supreme Court rules that this Ohio proposal is unworkable, the clause would allow the state legislature to draw the congressional map, as we do under current law, but the geographic and fairness criteria from the new proposal would still be required.