COLUMBUS — A proposal on the fall ballot seeks to overhaul how Ohio draws its legislative districts after state lawmakers struck a bipartisan deal last year to change the long-criticized process.
Ohio alters the boundaries of its legislative districts once per decade to reflect population shifts identified in the U.S. Census. Voters will decide on Nov. 3 whether to revamp the way the lines get decided.
Here’s a look at some answers to key questions about the proposal, known as Issue 1:
WHY CHANGE THE PROCESS?
The state’s redistricting method has long been criticized as allowing the party in power to tilt the lines in its favor, and state leaders have acknowledged its flaws. Backers of the proposal say it would increase political competition in districts and require mapmakers to work to contain communities in the same district.
HOW IS IT DONE NOW?
District maps for the Ohio House and state Senate are created by the five-member state Apportionment Board. That panel consists of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state and two legislative appointees. It takes a simple majority vote to approve the lines. During the last map-making process in 2011, four members were Republicans and one was a Democrat.
UNDER THE BALLOT INITIATIVE, WHO WOULD DECIDE THE LINES?
The proposal creates a seven-member panel called the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The governor, secretary of state and auditor still hold seats, but there are four legislative appointees. At least two members must be from the minority party.
WHAT ELSE IS DIFFERENT?
Two minority-party votes would be needed to adopt the legislative boundaries for a 10-year period. Lacking those votes, the majority could draw only short-term maps under stricter criteria. Those lines would be in place for four years. The members would then reconvene to redraw the boundaries.
DOES THE BALLOT PROPOSAL CHANGE HOW CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS ARE DRAWN?
No. The General Assembly currently approves U.S. House boundaries. Resolutions pending in the Legislature seek to give the Redistricting Commission that responsibility.
WHO SUPPORTS THE REDISTRICTING PLAN?
A number of groups from across the political spectrum. Backers include the state chapters of the Society of CPAs, Bar Association, Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the American Civil Liberties Union, AFL-CIO, and Nuns on the Bus, a Catholic social justice organization.
ARE THERE ANY OPPONENTS?
None who are vocal. The state’s Democratic Party did not immediately endorse the proposal, though it eventually did.
WHAT WERE THE DEMOCRATS’ CONCERNS?
Some Democrats had worried the proposed changes would disadvantage their party long term. Before backing the plan, the party analyzed competing computer models used to create hypothetical maps with the proposal’s criteria. Republicans hold supermajorities in both Ohio’s legislative chambers. It’s been 30 years since Democrats controlled both, though a slight majority of voters in the perennial swing state affiliate with the party.