Voters' choices, not politicians', should prevail in redistricting
Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010
The following news release was issued Monday by the League of Women Voters of Ohio.
Voters' choices, not politicians', should prevail in elections. And to achieve this, Ohio State Representative Tom Letson (D-Warren) today introduced a resolution to change Ohio’s decennial redistricting procedure from a winner-take-all system to a fairer and more transparent one. This is a good addition to the discussions surrounding Senate Joint Resolution 5, introduced by Sen. Husted and passed by the Senate this fall, which provides for a bipartisan commission responsible for drawing district lines. A bipartisan commission is a great improvement over the existing system, and today’s House Resolution would add to that by strengthening the criteria used in redistricting.
Today’s resolution establishes a transparent, citizen-driven competition for redrawing the district lines for the Ohio General Assembly based on measurable criteria: representational fairness, competition, and honoring communities of interest by rewarding compactness and keeping municipalities intact. These criteria are very similar to those tested last spring in the Ohio Redistricting Competition. However, the resolution uses the criteria differently than the competition did, and those differences can be examined during deliberations.
"The Ohio Redistricting Competition proved that Ohioans can draw districts that reflect the political values of Ohio voters and are also both compact and competitive," said Meg G. Flack, President of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. "Ohio needs a process that will produce representatives who reflect the political values of Ohioans and provide meaningful choices to Ohio voters. This resolution allows Ohioans to be active participants in their government by submitting redistricting maps for consideration based on fair, objective, and measurable criteria."
Like most American states, Ohio has had a partisan winner-take-all redistricting process. This allowed a Democratic majority to create Democratic-biased legislative districts in 1971 and 1981, and a Republican majority to create Republican-biased legislative districts in 1991 and 2001. Because it is unclear who will have the upper hand in the 2011 redistricting, this is a uniquely favorable time for reforms that will eliminate these gerrymandering practices.
“Voters don’t deserve to be manipulated or gerrymandered. Fairness is clearly in the best interest of the voters,” said Joan Lawrence, former Ohio State Representative (R-Galena). “No one knows who will have control of the Reapportionment Board in 2011. It is in the best interest of the legislators to create a fair system.”
This proposal would not have been possible just a few years ago. “Mapping software has become increasingly user-friendly, opening the redistricting process up to the public,” said Richard Gunther, Professor of Political Science at The Ohio State University. "In fact, one of my undergraduate students participated in the redistricting competition. And our experience with that competition demonstrated that it is possible to create districts that represent the two major parties fairly, that provide voters with real choice in competitive districts, and that represent the interests of the diverse communities that make up Ohio."
The League of Women Voters of Ohio urges the General Assembly to present a joint resolution for voters’ consideration that will eliminate partisan gerrymandering and establish a fair, objective, and transparent process for redrawing district boundaries. If passed by Ohio voters, this will ensure that voters' choices, not politicians', prevail in elections.