After years of trying, good government groups scored a huge victory Tuesday in their effort to reform the way Ohio politicians draw state legislative district boundaries.
State Issue 1 was winning in a landslide, according to partial, unofficial results from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. With 87 percent of the vote counted, the issue was passing 71 percent to 29 percent.
“I think it’s an absolute win for the voters of the state of Ohio,” said Susan Hesselgesser, executive director of the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area. “It puts the choice back into the hands of the people instead of political parties.”
The amendment was put on the ballot in a bipartisan vote by the Ohio Legislature but did not include congressional redistricting. Supporters say they will now try to get voters to reform that process as well.
“Issue 1 is a reform measure that was decades in the making,” said Catherine Turcer, policy analyst for Common Cause Ohio. “Next up: Congress.”
“Passage of Issue 1 helps ensure a fairer and equal redistricting process,” said Chris Kershner, vice president at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. “We believe Issue 1 will create greater diversity and inclusion throughout Ohio’s legislative districts.”
Statehouse district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years for the 33 Ohio Senate seats and 99 House seats to reflect population shifts. The amendment to the state constitution approved on Tuesday will encourage districts to be more compact and competitive. Supporters say it will make it harder to “gerrymander” districts, which is the practice of drawing districts to favor one party or another.
The new rules will be used for the first time in 2021 when an expanded and renamed Ohio Redistricting Commission will redraw the lines. Two minority party votes would be needed to create a new 10-year map; if no agreement is reached, the map will only be in effect for four years.
The new law specifically requires transparency — with meetings held in public, maps displayed in public and the plan explained in writing.
“We are thrilled with the passage of Issue 1, the redistricting amendment, because we expect it will lead to a larger number of more competitive districts at the statehouse level,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “In the long term, this should lead to a legislature far more in the mainstream of Ohio — as opposed to the current extreme group that occupies the Statehouse.”
Added Sandy Theis, executive director of ProgressOhio, which pushed for the amendment: “Ohio voters can do amazing things when they work together. Let’s work together to reform the congressional map.”