Redistricting Reform

 
VOTERS SUPPORT REDISTRICTING REFORM

Between January 4 and 5, 2006, the Tarrance Group took a poll for the Reform Institute and surveyed 807 Ohio voters. They found that:

  • 70% of Ohio voters support either the idea of “balance” or “competition” in congressional and legislative races, or both
    • 58% support more competition
    • 31% support keeping things the way they are
    • 53% support more of a balance of voters with differing views in their districts
    • 28% support keeping a majority who share their views
  • 53% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats support more competition in elections over keeping things the way they are
  • 55% of self-identified conservatives, 60% of moderates and 62% of liberals support more competition in elections over keeping things the way they are

Some form of anti-gerrymandering legislation has been introduced in every General Assembly since 1978, but recent attempts to reform have been unsuccessful. However, a number of arenas for reform and alternative redistricting systems still exist, and citizens may petition for an initiative to be placed on the ballot for voters to consider.


Redistricting Reform History

1967
The Ohio Constitutional amendment authorizing the Reapportionment Board to draw boundaries for Ohio House and Senate districts was passed in 1967.

1981
In 1981, the League of Women Voters of Ohio supported an Ohio Constitutional amendment which provided for competition between redistricting plans and would limit the discretion of individuals selecting the plan. The amendment failed.

1999
In 1999, the League of Women Voters of Ohio attempted to get signatures sufficient to place a redistricting reform amendment on the ballot. The proposed amendment emphasized compactness of districts, and used a mathematical formula to assure compact districts.

2005
In 2005, a group called Reform Ohio Now (RON) obtained enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot. Under the initiative, a bipartisan commission would do the redistricting; plans could be submitted by the public and the plan that most supported competitive districts would be chosen.

Opponents produced a map which they claimed was competitive, but which did not retain community of interest.

The voters rejected the proposal by a 70% vote. Research done by Lake Research Partners shortly after the election indicated that voters support the underlying principles of redistricting reform. Ohio voters viewed the proposal as partisan and did not see the need for this reform relative to other priorities.

2006
The day after the defeat of Issue 4 in 2005, Ohio House Majority Leader Husted indicated that he also thought the current redistricting system was not working. Husted indicated he wanted House Republicans to meet with representatives of Reform Ohio Now to develop a new redistricting proposal. That effort produced H.J.R. 13, introduced in May 2006. More information.

H.J.R. 13 differed from the 2005 Issue 4 in a number of ways. Primarily, it emphasized compactness of districts and keeping communities together. Hearings were held in May 2006 resulting in a substitute resolution. More information.

In order to be placed on the ballot, the resolution needed to pass both the Ohio House and Senate by a 60% margin. It did not receive the required number of votes.


Historically

In every legislative session since 1978 redistricting initiatives have been introduced in the Ohio legislature. Click here to view a list of the past initatives.


Arenas for Reform

Courts
The United States Supreme Court has indicated that it has jurisdiction over the issue of excessive partisan redistricting, but to date the Court hasn’t found a standard to use in making that determination. Recently, it decided to permit Texas’ mid-decade redistricting. LULAC v. Perry, decided June 28, 2006.

Federal legislature for federal house seats
Congress has the authority to draw congressional districts, but to date has chosen not to use that authority.

State legislature for state house and senate and federal house seats
The state legislature has not passed reform legislation in the area of redistricting in the last 30 years.

Initiative petition
Citizens of Ohio can place an initiative on the ballot for the consideration of the voters.


Alternative Systems

There are alternative systems to district-based voting that may eliminate some of the problems with redistricting. These systems include:

First-past-the-post
Federal Congressional races are an example of a “first-past-the-post” system in which the voter votes for one choice, and the choice that receives the most votes wins, even if that is less than a majority of votes. It is also known as a “winner take all” system, because if every candidate of a single party were to receive 51% of the vote, that party would win all the seats.

Preference voting
In a preference voting system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. This is commonly paired with an instant run-off election. If no candidate receives a majority of first preference, the candidates with fewest votes are eliminated one by one, and their votes transferred according to their second and third preferences until one candidate achieves a majority.

Multi-member districts
Another option is to create multi-member districts. If the district were to have three members, the top three candidates receiving the most votes would be elected. If the composition of the district were 51% for one party and 49% for the other, it would be likely that two members of the majority party would be elected and one member of the minority party would be elected. Click here for more information.