State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today panned the congressional redistricting proposal introduced this week by Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima). Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 5 removes public input from the redistricting process by eliminating the option of a citizen referendum, and retains a partisan advantage for the party in control of the state legislature.
“Taking the public out of the equation creates a rigged system that’s worse that what we currently have in place,” Boccieri said. “We should have the people picking their elected officials, not politicians picking who they want to represent."
SJR 5 tasks the General Assembly with drawing a map for congressional districts. The plan must 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 job is transferred to the existing Ohio Redistricting Commission. The Commission’s plan must garner support from at least two minority party commission members. If two minority members consent, the map is valid for 10 years. If not, the map is only valid for four years before the process restarts. However, a four-year map could become a 10-year map with approval from the General Assembly.
“To suggest that a partisan group is the best choice to draw political maps is just insane. We’ve seen in cases across the country that partisan groups draw these districts to their advantage,” said Boccieri.
In addition to likely being unsuccessful in preventing gerrymandering, the resolution does not require the Governor’s signature because it is not a bill, eliminating yet another check on the fairness of the maps.
Some Democrat lawmakers have voiced concern about the closed-door nature of negotiations on the final version of SJR 5. Initially, a bipartisan working group met to hash out the proposal and the group hosted public meetings to vet ideas. However, the final language of the resolution did not earn approval from minority members of the working group.
SJR 5 is slated to be voted out of Senate committee next week and come up for a floor vote shortly thereafter. House Republican leadership has noted that changes are likely to come before the proposal passes the House.
Should SJR 5 pass the General Assembly, it would appear before Ohio voters later this year.