Constitutional Initiative to Reform Redistricting in Ohio: Voters First Proposal Summary Executive Summary A politically independent citizens commission
would draw both state legislative and Congressional districts. Under present law, state legislative districts are drawn by a partisan board, and Congressional districts are drawn by the state legislature. This has led to unfair plans being drawn behind closed doors, to the disadvantage of the people of Ohio. The proposed initiative would take redistricting out of the hands of incumbent politicians, and would place it in the hands of an impartial citizens commission. The Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission -- composed of equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and reflecting the diversity of Ohio -- would be required to draw fair districts, which do not favor or disfavor a particular party, incumbent or candidate. District boundaries would be drawn to promote fairness, competitiveness, compactness, and preservation of existing communities. Paid lobbyists, incumbents, and others with a personal or financial interest is elections would be barred from serving on the citizens commission. Highlights ● Citizens, Not Politicians. Instead of the current procedures (in which politicians draw district boundaries that unfairly favor their own party and/or protect incumbents), a 12member citizens commission will create the districts. Any member of the public can submit a plan for consideration. ● Openness and Transparency. All meetings, records, communications and draft plans of the commission must be open to the public. No more backroom deals. ● Balance and Impartiality. The citizens commission will include equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and the approval of at least seven of the twelve members of the commission will be required for the adoption of any plan. This will ensure that the final plan fairly represents all Ohioans, not just those currently in power. ● Community Representation. Districts will be created that are geographically compact, and which minimize the division of counties, townships, municipalities and wards between different districts. ● Accountability. Politically balanced districts will be created, rather than “safe districts” which make it difficult or impossible for voters to hold elected officials accountable. ● Fairness. To the greatest extent possible, the share of districts leaning toward a party will reflect the political preferences of the voters of Ohio.
Specific Procedures and Criteria The first 9 members of the 12-person Commission will be chosen by lot from pools of independent, Democratic and Republican citizens who will have been screened by a panel of eight appellate court judges to assure that the Commission includes individuals with the skills, abilities and capacity for impartiality that will allow the Commission to fulfill its responsibilities. These 9 members (3 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 3 independents) will then select the remaining three (1 Democrat, 1 Republican and 1 independent) in such a manner as to ensure that the Commission’s composition reflects the diversity of Ohio. All meetings, records, communications and draft plans of the Commission shall be open to the public. The affirmative vote of at least 7 members of the Commission shall be required to adopt any plan. Redistricting plans and maps may be proposed by any member of the public or by the Commission itself. To be considered, a plan must comply with all applicable Ohio and federal constitutional and statutory provisions, including, but not limited to, those dealing specifically with the protection of minority voting rights. No plan shall be adopted with intent to favor or disfavor a political party, incumbent or potential candidate. The Commission shall adopt the redistricting plan that, in its judgment, most closely meets the following four criteria: (1) Community Preservation: Minimizes the number of governmental units (counties, contiguous townships, municipalities and city wards) that are divided between different districts; (2) Politically Balanced Districts: Maximizes the number of politically balanced districts (i.e., that do not favor one party by more than five percent, based upon political party indexes calculated on the basis of recent representative statewide elections); (3) Representational fairness: Balances the number of districts leaning toward each party so that the number of districts leaning toward each party closely corresponds to the preferences of the voters of Ohio, as determined using actual election results from recent representative statewide elections; (4) Compactness: Creates districts that are compact. If the Supreme Court of Ohio or a federal court determines the plan to be invalid, the Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission shall establish new boundaries. If it becomes necessary for any court to establish any district boundaries, it shall select from among the plans submitted to or considered by the Commission, and it shall adopt the plan that most closely meets the four criteria listed above. Eligibility Any Ohio elector is eligible to serve on the Commission, except for those who have failed to vote in at least two of the past three general elections or, in the past ten years, have served as a federal or state elected official; have been a paid employee of the legislature, Congress or of a state or federal elected official; have served as director of a state department or agency; or have been a paid lobbyist. Also ineligible are those who in the past five years have run for state or federal elective office; have been an employee or paid consultant for a political campaign; have been an official or paid employee of any political party; or contributed more than $5,000 to political campaigns or political parties during the last two years.
How Bad is our Current Congressional Map?
According to the standard criteria used to assess electoral systems (representational fairness, community preservation, competitiveness, etc.), our new Congressional district boundaries are about as bad as can be achieved by using standard gerrymandering techniques.
Representational Unfairness: Political scientists have developed a standard indicator to measure the fairness or unfairness of representation within different kinds of electoral systems around the world. “Electoral
Disproportionality” is the difference between the percentage of the seats won by a party and the percentage of the votes cast for that party’s candidates. The smaller the number, the more party
representation in the legislature reflects the preferences of the voters; larger numbers indicate that the system has been designed to unfairly favor one party over the others. As can be seen below, the new Congressional map for Ohio is twice as bad as the next-worst electoral systems in the democratic world (and France and Canada only have that distinction because they combine single-member districts and multi-party systems).
1 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 1012-
The Netherlands Denmark, Sweden, Austria Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Italy Portugal, Iceland The United States, Japan, Norway Russia Greece, Spain Australia Britain Canada, France
18- Ohio 2002-2010 24- Ohio (under new 2012 map)
Community Preservation: The new Congressional map fails to respect community boundaries. It has a total of 54 county splits, and seven counties (Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, Stark, Mercer, Lorain and Franklin) are split into three or more districts. By contrast, the winning plan from the Ohio Redistricting Competition (submitted by a Republican state legislator from Illinois) included just 9 county splits. And the new plan is even less compact than Ohio’s previous (2002-2010) map.
Competitiveness: The current map includes no competitive districts, defined as those within which the margin of victory is expected to be (on the basis of the average vote cast in recent statewide elections *) five percent or less. Democratic voters are packed into four districts, within which Democrats have redundant super-majorities ranging between 62% and 80%. Republican-leaning districts “waste” fewer Republican votes, but the incumbents are protected in “safe” districts that are all-butimmune from anything short of a tidal-wave of support for the opposition party. Overall, the lack of competitiveness makes it difficult or impossible for voters to hold their elected officials accountable. Moreover, since the real election takes place in the primary (usually dominated by party loyalists whose ideological stands tend to be less moderate than those who turn out in general elections), this contributes to polarization and stalemate in Congress. The anticipated partisan balance and margin of victory in each of Ohio’s 16 new districts can be seen in the following table. District 11 (Fudge) 3 (Cols.) 9 (Kaptur & Kucinich) 13 (Ryan) 8 (Boehner) 4 (Jordan) 12 (Tiberi) 5 (Latta) 2 (Schmidt) 16 (Renacci & Sutton) 15 (Stivers) 7 (Gibbs) 1 (Chabot) 14 (LaTourette) 10 (Turner & Austria) 6 (Johnson)
Anticipated Vote D 80% D 64 D 64 D 62 R 64 R 60 R 59 R 58 R 57 R 57 R 56 R 56 R 56 R 54 R 54 R 54
Anticipated Margin of Victory 59.3% 28.5 27.2 24.6 28.6 19.2 18.8 15.0 14.0 13.2 12.9 12.5 11.8 8.7 8.4 7.7
These estimated votes are based on a partisan index representing the average of the votes cast for the Democratic and Republican candidates in the 2008 presidential election, and the 2010 races for Governor, Auditor and Secretary of State.
Let’s put the Voters First!
Why should politicians draw their own district boundaries?
Our politicians hid out in backrooms to draw districts that benefit themselves -- to ensure their own re-elections and over-represent their party. In order to gain political advantage, they have created bizarre districts that split apart cities and counties. They have rigged the system to create “safe” districts that prevent voters from holding them accountable. Instead of voters choosing their politicians, politicians are choosing their voters.
What is the solution?
Nonpartisan, good government organizations in Ohio, including the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, have proposed a constitutional amendment that would reform Ohio’s redistricting process. With enough support this issue can be on this November’s ballot, so that Ohio’s voters can decide.
What would the new process look like?
Politicians will no longer be able to draw their districts. Instead an Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission, consisting of 12 qualified people, will determine our districts. Politicians, lobbyists, and other political insiders will not be permitted on the commission or to choose who is. The Commission will be nonpartisan with four Republicans, four Democrats, and four voters not affiliated with either party. New districts will require the approval of 7 of the 12 commission members. Districts cannot be created to favor a political party, incumbent, or potential candidate. No more backroom deals! All commission meetings and records, including proposed plans must be public. The commission must consider plans submitted by the public and must provide the public with an opportunity to review and comment on proposed plans. Requires fair and objective redistricting practices. The commission will be required to adopt the plan which best meets the following criteria: Preserves communities by minimizing splits of counties, cities and townships Maximizes the number of politically balanced districts Fairly reflects the preferences of the voters of Ohio Creates compact districts.
What can I do?
To move forward, we need to identify sufficient resources to gather 386,000 signatures by July 3, 2012 and mobilize a statewide educational campaign for the Nov. 2012 election. You can help by: Encouraging your group or organization to endorse this plan Helping to collect signatures to put this initiative on the November ballot Supporting this effort by committing your time, money, and influence Following our efforts at www.votersfirstohio.org and on our Facebook page.
Campaign for Fair Redistricting Name:____________________________________ Address:__________________________________ Employer/Business:_________________________ Phone:____________________________________ Email:____________________________________ Interested in volunteering? YES / NO
Checks should be made out to “Voters First” and mailed to Don McTigue 545 E. Town Street Columbus, Ohio 43215 Or contribute online at www.votersfirstohio.org.
There is no limit on the size of contributions. Since this is an issue campaign, corporations (both non-profit and for-profit) can contribute. Contributions are not tax deductible and will be disclosed to the public on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.