Each time redistricting voter districts enters the national dialogue, along with it comes partisan politics and gerrymandering. But Ohio is taking steps to quell the dissent and find a more balanced and lasting way to map out voting districts.
Recently, the Ohio House gave final approval to a plan to draw voter maps using a bipartisan process with the goal of making elections more competitive.
Legislatures draw voting maps in 37 states, while 13 states use commissions — with some independent and others politically appointed — to define districts that are meant to be less partisan. In Ohio, the Apportionment Board is made up of three elected state officials including the governor, auditor and the secretary of state, as well as one member from each party chosen by the legislatures, according to the New York Times.
But the new proposal adds an additional member from each party, and if the minority party members don’t agree with the map, the revisions will only last four years instead of 10. With statewide elections every four years, partisan control could shift, which means it would make more sense to come up with a compromise that the minority party approves of as well.
The new plan is focused on state legislative districts but may have an effect on congressional districts since they are drawn by state lawmakers.
There’s no guarantee, however, that the plan will bring a more balance approach, as more Americans have begun living in communities where they’re politically and ideologically aligned, the New York Times points out. This divide also increasingly applies to the rural and urban divide as well.
“There’s no perfect map, no panacea,” says Morgan Cullen, a policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But Ohio’s move is the first in the last few years to remove partisanship from the process, Cullen adds.
Some state Republicans are praising the move, calling it a step toward ending polarization in the General Assembly, according to Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted. Democratic Senator Nina Turner, who ran unsuccessfully against Husted for secretary of state in November, agrees that the plan would create more balance.
“I always say Ohio is conservative by design and not by desire,” she says. “This really is a tremendous deal.”
Ohio residents must vote to amend the State Constitution in a November 2015 referendum in order to implement the changes, which means they would not go into effect until the next redistricting in 2021.