Voter redistricting issue lives on
By A.J. Wagner
The Supreme Court of Ohio consists of six Republican justices and one Democrat. The court has often been reliable for holding true to Republican views. Yet, in Voters First v. Ohio Ballot Board, five of the Republican Ohio Supreme Court justices essentially called Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, dishonest.
The question before the Court was whether the ballot language, written by Husted’s office and approved by the Ballot Board along party lines, is an accurate reflection of the redistricting law that voters are being asked to approve this November as Issue 2. The Court said Husted’s language was “inaccurate and prejudicial.”
Whenever an issue appears on the ballot, the Ballot Board, headed by the Secretary of State, is charged with writing a summary of the issue for voters to read while voting. The summary is supposed to reflect the actual language of the proposed law, which is usually too unwieldy for a quick read in the voting booth. The Supreme Court looked at the proposed language for Issue 2 and said, “The cumulative effect of these defects in the ballot language is fatal to the validity of the ballot because it fails to properly identify the substance of the amendment, which misleads voters.”
Redistricting is opposed by Republicans who drew the current districts to largely favor themselves. They do not want to see a change that would require a non-partisan board to redraw the districts for our U.S. House members and our State Representatives. So that you have a better idea of what this amendment to the Ohio Constitution will do, I present the summary drafted by Voters First, the group that is supporting Issue 2:
Under the proposed amendment:
1. The Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission would be established to draw the boundaries for Ohio’s state legislative and congressional districts, once following approval of this amendment and then once every ten years following the federal census. Under current law, a state board determines state legislative districts and the General Assembly determines congressional districts.
2. Redistricting plans could not be adopted with the intent of favoring or disfavoring a political party, incumbent officeholder or candidate.
3. The Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission would be balanced to not favor any political party and to reflect the diversity of Ohio. It would be composed of 12 citizens of the state: 4 affiliated with the largest political party in the state, 4 affiliated with the second largest political party in the state and 4 who are not affiliated with either political party.
4. Members of the commission must be persons with the relevant skills and a capacity for impartiality.
5. Certain persons would not be eligible to serve on the commission, including office holders, candidates, political party officials, paid lobbyists, and certain public employees and family members.
6. The commission would be required to adopt state and federal redistricting plans that most closely meet the following four factors: community preservation, competitiveness, representational fairness and compactness.
7. Legislative districts must be comprised of contiguous territory and be relatively equal in population and comply with the Ohio and United States Constitutions and federal law.
8. The public could submit proposed redistricting plans to the commission and the commission would be required to give full and fair consideration to such plans.
9. The commission would be required to make relevant data available to the public, make publicly available all proposed plans, allow public comment before adopting a plan, and conduct all its business in meetings open to the public.
10. Any eligible Ohioan could apply to be a commission member. From all applicants, a bi-partisan panel of eight Ohio appellate judges would select 42 persons (14 affiliated with the largest political party, 14 affiliated with the second largest political party and 14 not affiliated with either party) to form three pools. Three persons each may then be removed from each pool by the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and by the leader in the House of the opposite political party. From those remaining, three members would be randomly selected from each pool. These nine members would then select the final three members, one from each of the two major political parties and one not affiliated with either party.
11. The affirmative vote of 7 of the 12 commission members would be required to adopt a redistricting plan. In the event that the commission is not able to agree on a plan by October 1st of the year following the census, an action may be initiated in the Ohio Supreme Court and the court would be required to adopt from among all plans submitted to the commission the plan that most closely meets all of the factors described above.
Husted is trying to fix this election. Fortunately, his friends at the Court understand that.
Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein.
A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.