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The legislature initiated redistricting Constitutional amendment passed in November 2015 does almost nothing to end gerrymandering of Ohio General Assembly (OGA) districts and doesn't deal with U.S. Congressional districts at all.  It specifies that 2 members of the minority party will serve on the controlling board.  If the 2 minority party members do not approve the OGA districting plan, it is put into effect for 4 rather than 10 years.  After those 4 years the process is repeated and the majority approved districts can be in effect for the next 6 years without minority party support.  The process takes place again with the next census.   If bipartisan cooperation ever happens, it will be to be to trade safe (non-competitive) districts between the parties with the result being that the voters will continue to be excluded from any meaningful role in the elective process.  The passed amendment was counter productive in that it gave the appearance that something was done about gerrymandering when nothing of any significance was done.  1/22/16

Redistricting Ohio Constitutional Amendment     9/16/13

     

                          Go to the draft amendment>                       Go to the campaign plan>

The redistricting amendment of 2012 was a good amendment and should have passed.  We should learn the lessons of that failure and try again in 2015. 

Here are a few of the lessons we should take from the 2012 failure:

1.      A long, complex amendment provides the opponents with too many opportunities to create false issues, smoke screen and confusion.  The amendment must be simple, concise and short.

2.      The Ohio BAR took issue with involving the courts in the controlling board selection.  We should not repeat that.

3.      The easiest way to handle some of the false issues (such as unlimited compensation and costs) is to quickly cover them.

 

The key element of the draft amendment is the selection of the commission which will draw the districts.  The intent is to produce a commission which will draw maps with fair and competitive districts.  If the commission were to be made up of an equal number legislators from each party, map drawing would be an incumbent protection exercise producing safe districts for the legislators who could make the best self-serving deals.  We have to get district drawing away from the legislative arena.  The obvious answer is a citizen commission.  

The draft amendment calls for citizens to apply for membership in that commission, declaring their support for one of the major parties or declaring that they have no preference* between them.  Membership is restricted to citizens who have not been a federal or state employees (elected or staff) in the last 10 years to avoid people with personal vested interests.  Further, in order to rule out party insiders, commission members may not be members of the county or state Central or Executive Committees for either major party.  The draft has the Secretary of State draw, by lot, 10 applicants who have declared allegiance to each party and 10 from the pool of those who have declared that they have no party preference*  from each of 5 regions covering Ohio.  The legislators from each party would then choose 2 (+2 alternates).   Five legislators from each party will form a committee to select a similar 2 members and 2 alternates from those declaring no party preference for each region.  Prohibiting the legislators from any contact with the commission during the map drawing provides further assurance of an independent process.

*The first reaction of many is to empower Independents.  But, there are very few registered Independents.  In Greene County there are a total of 132 voters registered with a party other than the two major parties (Libertarian, Greene, Socialist, Natural Law, Independent, ...). That is about 1/10 of 1%.  A large percentage of voters are not registered with any party, mostly because they don't vote in primary elections.  Many of them are strongly partisan.  But, to get representation from voters who are not partisan we have to deal with that pool.  That is done by requiring applicants who wish to be included in the non-partisan pool to declare that they have no preference for either major party.  Their voting record must show either no major party registrations or registrations for both major parties.  Independents and minor parties registrants can be included.  After an initial drawing by lot, they are vetted by a bipartisan panel.

The draft amendment responds to to the issues (mostly false) which the opponents of 2012 Issue 2 raised.  It is better to quickly diffuse them in the amendment than to spend millions trying to counter false issues in the campaign to pass the amendment.  The issues and coverage in the draft amendment include the following:

  1. The compensation of the commission will be unlimited and the total costs high for the tax payers.  This is refuted by  C.5 "Members shall be compensated at a rate of twice the prevailing minimum wage for hours worked and shall receive compensation for actual and necessary expenses."

  2. Our elected representatives in the Ohio General Assembly are cut out of the process.  They are given a role in the selection of the commission with controls to keep them from continuing gerrymandering.  The actual drawing of districts will be in the hands of the citizen commission.

  3. Once chosen, members of the commission cannot be removed for cause.  Section C. 7. allows the commission to expel members by two-thirds vote with cause.

  4. Once formed, the commission goes on forever.  C.6.  "Members shall serve until a new Commission is selected following the next federal decennial census."

  5. Backed by the Ohio Bar Association, they said it was improper to have the courts involved in selecting the commission.  In this amendment, the courts do not select the commission.  The Ohio Supreme Court  is placed in a backup role at the last step to make the map selections from citizen entries if the commission fails to act.

  6. The  Issue 2 amendment was too complex.  This draft amendment will be one to two pages versus over 7 pages for Issue 2.  The writing is straight forward at this point.  Suggested rewording which makes it  simpler while adequately covering  necessary provisions will be incorporated.

 We need a plan to pass the amendment.  I have drafted such a plan.  It is the same as I present for passing a health care reform amendment.  See that plan.      

  Go to the draft amendment 

Bill Conner