An amendment to create a citizens panel to draw Ohio’s Statehouse and Congressional maps has been filed

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — An amendment to create a 15-member citizen-appointed panel to draw state legislative and Congressional maps and remove that power from the Republican-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission has been filed with the attorney general’s office, with the goal of making the November 2024 ballot.

Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) presents a new Congressional district map, drawn by the Senate Republican Caucus.
Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) presents a new Congressional district map, drawn by the Senate Republican Caucus. [Andy Chow | Statehouse News Bureau]
The group advocating for the Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission amendment includes Republican former Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. She had joined the court’s three Democrats in last year’s decisions that ruled the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The group also includes Democratic former Justice Yvette McGee Brown, who left the court in 2012.

The group’s news release said the amendment would create the 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of Republican, Democratic and independent citizens “who broadly represent the different geographic areas and demographics of the state.” The amendment would also prohibit current and former politicians, party officials, lobbyists, and large political donors from serving on the commission. The release also said the commission would be required to draw “fair and impartial districts by making it unconstitutional to draw voting districts that discriminate against or favor any political party or individual politician.”

(Read the language here.)

The move to create a citizen-appointed panel to draw maps comes after Congressional and legislative maps the Ohio Supreme Court ruled were unconstitutionally gerrymandered multiple times last year were put in place by a federal court and used for the 2022 elections for Ohio’s delegation to Congress and the Ohio House and Senate. This proposal is different from a citizens redistricting commission amendment that Ohio voters rejected 70%-30% in 2005. Voters approved the current system with amendments that were passed overwhelmingly in 2015 and 2018.

Attorney General Dave Yost has 10 days to approve or deny the summary language and send it to the Ballot Board, which would have to okay the language on petitions to collect 413,487 valid signatures by July 3 for the November 2024 ballot. It would need a simple majority to pass, with the rejection of the 60% voter threshold that would have been required with the approval of Issue 1 last week.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who had helped create the previous redistricting amendments and was a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission throughout much of the process, reacted to the move through a spokesman.

John Fortney, the director of communications for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus, said in a statement: “So called citizen led commissions are anything but that, they are proxy votes and puppets of partisan special interest groups like Eric Holder’s NDRC.”