Ohio redistricting resolution headed to voters in November

Just before adjourning for the year, the Ohio legislature passed a bipartisan measure to govern redistricting of Ohio's legislative districts. House Joint Resolution 12, which was passed with only 9 "no" votes between both the House and Senate, will be placed on the ballot for voters statewide to decide whether to adopt as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in November. The resolution, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Vernon Sykes and Republican Rep. Matt Huffman, makes changes to the existing redistricting plan, first adopted in the 1960s. This plan has been widely criticized as giving too much power to the majority party and has sometimes led to strangely drawn districts, splitting cities and counties.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the existing plan involves a five-member redistricting panel that meets in the"1" year of every decade (1991, 2001, 2011, etc..) and is comprised of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, a person from the majority party and a person from the minority party. Only three votes are needed to pass a redistricting plan, so the party in control ultimately makes the decisions.

The new plan expands the panel to seven members, which include the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and two members of both the majority and minority parties. Four votes are needed to pass a plan, and two of those must come from members of the minority party. If a plan passes, it is in place for ten years, until the panel reconvenes. If a plan does not get approval from the minority party then the panel may pass a plan with a simple majority vote, but it is only good for four years, and the panel must reconvene at that time to consider another plan. If there is still not approval from the majority party, then the plan will be put into place by a simple majority vote again, this time for 6 years.

The Enquirer article also offers an inside look at the negotiation process in this matter. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission provides a detailed analysis of the resolution.