Following years of debate on the issue, the Ohio legislature is poised to pass a resolution to change the way that legislative districts are drawn.
The state’s current process for drawing legislative boundaries is highly partisan, requiring a simple majority vote by members of the Ohio Apportionment Board (Board). The Board is comprised of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, and two members of the legislature with Republicans currently holding a 4 to 1 majority.
The Ohio House this week passed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 12, to amend the redistricting process for General Assembly districts in the Ohio Constitution. Currently, new maps are adopted following the decennial census and are in effect for 10 years. Under the proposal, the Board would be expanded to include two additional legislators and require votes from two members of the minority party in order for the maps to be adopted for a 10-year period. If the required minority votes are not secured, maps can be adopted by the majority for a four-year period, after which time the Board would be required to start the process over. Supporters of the proposal said in such cases it would be possible that statewide officeholders on the Board could change before new maps must be drawn.
The resolution exceeded the required three-fifths requirement for passage, with a vote of 80 to 4, with three Republicans and one Democrat voting against the measure. If approved by the Ohio Senate, the decision to adopt HJR 12 would go to Ohio voters on the Nov. 2015 ballot.
The Ohio Senate has a similar proposal, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 8, which passed out of committee this week without Democratic support. This measure would also expand the Board by adding two additional legislators, but would require only one vote from a minority party member. Senate President Faber (R-Celina) indicated that now was the time to pass redistricting reform, in part because all of Ohio’s statewide officeholders will be different during the next process due to term limits.
Either proposal must be adopted by the week of Dec. 15, when the legislature is expected to adjourn sine die, or must be reintroduced in the following General Assembly.