Activists considering whether another ballot issue is needed for Ohio redistricting process

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — The Ohio Supreme Court decision throwing out newly drawn maps for the Ohio House and Senate also included some advice for those concerned about how the maps were created.

This was the first time the maps had been drawn under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2015 to take partisanship out of the process.

The maps were approved in September by the seven-member Republican-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission created by the amendment. Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor agreed with the court’s three Democrats in tossing the maps, and wrote in her opinion: “I write separately because readers should understand they have the power to again amend the Ohio Constitution to ensure that partisan politics is
removed from the drawing of Ohio Senate and House districts that takes place every
ten years.”

She added that that activists might consider going to the ballot again to change the process or even create an independent commission like in Arizona, California, Michigan and Colorado.

Common Cause Ohio’s Catherine Turcer led the fight for the amendment in 2015, and said it’s worth thinking about but not rushing into.

“We should learn from other states a little take a little while, so nobody should be picking up their clipboards and getting all ready right away. This is something that we want to do really thoughtfully,” Turcer said in an interview for “The State of Ohio”.

But when it comes to independent redistricting commissions, Turcer said Ohio voters have turned that idea down twice: in 2005, as part of a package of changes known as Reform Ohio Now, and in 2012, in an effort backed by the group Voters First.

And Turcer said there are also some fixes that state lawmakers could do – for instance, requiring earlier hearings – though lawmakers did miss several constitutionally-set deadlines in this redistricting process.

But Turcer stressed she’s approaching the idea cautiously.

“It’s a little bit like giving somebody who’s drunk on power the car keys again. We gave them a chance to prove they could drive a car with a good set of rules. They drove us over a cliff. And so now we need to take away the car keys and think about it differently,” Turcer said.

But she added: “I guess what I’m trying to say is I want to make sure that we’re thoughtful about it, because it was incredibly challenging last year to feel like you’ve come so far and to keep the same metaphor and you haven’t even left the parking lot.”