- By John Erickson Staff Writer
1. Democracy depends on it. Sound overstated? Think of it this way. What if in the NFL, the New England Patriots were allowed to decide which draft picks they could choose and had veto power over each of the other teams’ selections? That’s essentially how redistricting works in Ohio. Republicans conceive the maps, draw the maps and approve the maps. The minority party — in this case Democrats — can only halt the process by going to court and proving minority groups were discriminated against, a very high bar. And the map-drawers take care of that by clustering minorities — and Democrats — into a handful of districts, thereby ensuring at least some representation. Consider the vote percentages in the 2016 election for the four Democratic members of Congress: Fudge (80.25 percent), Beatty (68.6 percent), Kaptur (68.9 percent), and Ryan (67.5 percent). The map-drawers made sure the Republicans were ensconced in safe districts too. The only Republican who had less than 60 percent of the vote was Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, and he just missed the cut, receiving 59.2 percent. Democracy is scarcely served when every member of Congress is virtually guaranteed of re-election.
2. Fairness matters — to both parties. I know it’s hard to imagine in Ohio, where Republicans have run things for awhile, but it hasn’t always been that way and, if history is our guide, it won’t be that way forever. Twelve years ago Democrats completed a near sweep of statewide races, losing only the race for auditor, and even that one had a razor-thin margin. Mary Taylor won with just 50.64 percent of the vote. Go back further to the 1980s and Republicans weren’t even competitive. Memories are short, but if the public sees one party as unfairly discriminating against the other party, they’ll be a stock market-like correction that won’t be pretty.
3. You are going to vote on this. You may need a Ph. D to understand it, but here is the gist of the proposal that passed the Ohio Senate Monday night and will likely land on your ballot in May. The Ohio General Assembly — currently controlled by Republicans — will retain control over the map-making, but the minority party won’t be completely ignored as it is now. A 10-year map would require a three-fifths majority, including at least half the members of each party. And if no agreement is reached by Sept. 30 in the year after the Census — in this case, Sept. 30, 2021 — a seven-member redistricting commission would take over. The commission would then have until Oct. 31 to settle things. If it strikes out, the legislature would get another crack, and have an option for a four-year or a 10-year map. Any map would be subject to voter referenda or a governor’s veto. Don’t blink, but this may be a rare occasion in Ohio when Republicans and Democrats worked together for the greater good. After all, the vote in the Ohio Senate was 31-0 in favor of the compromise congressional map-making plan. The House followed suit Tuesday voting 83-10 to put the issue on the ballot.