MEMO: As Ohio Redistricting Begins, Critical Issues for Ohio Voters Are on the Line

MEMORANDUM

To: Ohio Reporters and Editors

From: The Ohio Democratic Party

Re: As Ohio Redistricting Begins, Critical Issues for Ohio Voters Are on the Line

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As Ohio begins the redistricting process this week, the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) is outlining some important information for Ohio media ahead of the process to help remind voters how we got to this point, why the redistricting process matters to Ohioans and where we go from here. As always, ODP is always happy to answer any questions media has about the process. Press can email [email protected] with questions or for more information. 

Earlier this week, ODP Chair Elizabeth Walters released the following statement ahead of the first meeting of the redistricting commission on Friday:

“Every critical issue facing our state comes down to fair districts – from education to the economy to healthcare to voting rights. For too long, Republicans in charge of the process have allowed politicians to choose their voters rather than the other way around. And because of that, our state is more polarized and divided than ever. The best way to serve Ohio voters and to move our state forward on issues important to working families is by creating fair districts that represent the will of the people. And that’s what Ohio Democrats will be working to do.”

History:

Ohio has consistently ranked at the top of any list of most gerrymandered states in the nation. And while the Ohio GOP would be more than happy to keep it that way, in both 2015 and 2018, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to clean up the process and make the districts more reflective of the makeup of Ohio voters. 

Ohio’s status as one of the worst gerrymandered states has real consequences for Ohio voters. Despite nearly matching statewide Republican vote totals in 2018, Democrats didn’t win anywhere near a proportional number of seats because of gerrymandered maps. This means that Republicans were able to push through radical legislation almost at-will, without consequences, as Democrats remained in the super minority. And we’ve seen Republicans use this to their advantage to go against the will of Ohio voters on a number of issues, from consistently chipping away at Ohioans’ voting rights to putting public health at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That’s why the results of the 2021 redistricting commission are so important and why any efforts by Ohio Republicans to move forward on a strictly partisan basis are unacceptable. 

What’s Next:

State Legislative Maps

Step 1:

The Ohio Redistricting Commission will convene this Friday, made up of seven members: the Governor, Auditor, Secretary of State, and nominees from the following legislative leaders: the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate President, and Senate Minority Leader. The Commission has until September 1st to approve a map, and because of the ballot initiatives passed by Ohio voters, must hold a minimum of three public meetings to hear directly from Ohioans before then. 

To pass a map, the Commission must secure the support of four members (a majority), including both Democrats. If they are able to achieve this, the map will last for 10 years. If they fail to secure this, the process moves on to step two.

Step 2:

The Commission has until September 15th to try again to secure a map that once again has the support of four members, including both Democrats. A public hearing is required before adoption. If the Commission agrees to a bipartisan map in this step, it will last for 10 years. If not, the process moves to step three.

Step 3: 

The Commission can pass a map with a simple majority (four members, no Dem support needed).

There are important requirements any state legislative map must meet, including: 

  • Contiguity and compactness, 
  • When possible, House districts should not split counties more than once, 
  • District population cannot vary more than 5% from its representation ratio, 
  • No maps can favor or disfavor one political party, 
  • The overall percentage of seats for each party should match the percentage of votes over the last 10 years 
  • And each Senate seat must consist of three House seats.

If a four-year map is passed by the Commission through this process, they must reconvene and pass another map with a majority of members of the Commission that will last six years. The members of the Commission could be made up of a majority of Democrats at this point. 

Congressional Maps

Step 1:

The Ohio legislature will lead the process for drawing Congressional maps. They have until September 30th to pass a map with the support of 60% of members from both chambers, including the support of 50% of Democrats. Two public hearings are required before the map is adopted and the Governor may veto the map. If the legislature adopts a map and the Governor does not veto, the map will last for 10 years. Otherwise, the process moves to step two. 

Step 2:

The Redistricting Commission (members the same as above) has until October 31st to adopt a map that has the support of a majority of members, including both Democrats. Two public hearings are required before adoption. If adopted, the map will last ten years. If not, the process moves to step three.

Step 3: 

The state legislature has until November 30th to adopt a map with at least 60% percent of members from both chambers, including 1/3rd of Democrats. Two public hearings are required before the map is adopted and the Governor may veto the map. 

If adopted, the map will last ten years. If not, the process moves to step four.

Step 4: 

The state legislature can pass a map with a simple majority, but there are important requirements the map must meet, including: 

  • Contiguity and compactness
  • 65 counties must be kept whole, 18 may be split once, 5 may be split twice, and map drawers can decide which counties to split
  • Columbus must be split, Cleveland and Cincinnati cannot be split
  • Map drawers shall attempt to include at least one whole county in each congressional district, unless it would otherwise violate federal law (voting rights laws)
  •  Any maps passed with a simple majority MUST meet the following rules:
    • No partisan gerrymander
    • No undue splitting of political subdivisions
    • Drawers must attempt compactness
    • Drawers must release a statement explaining how these criteria were met

If a four-year map is passed by the legislature through this process, they must reconvene and pass another map with a majority of legislators that will last six years. 

What to Watch for:

Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted for a process that will result in fair maps and proportional representation, not a sham process in which the GOP uses tricks and gimmicks to push through short-term maps that do nothing to give Ohioans a greater voice in the democratic process. Any partisan ploys that end up with maps similar to the ones we have now are unacceptable, especially as Democrats enter the process willing to work with Republicans on maps that reflect the political makeup of our state and the will of Ohio voters. Issues critical to Ohio voters ranging from healthcare to the economy to education are on the line, any effort to bypass the will of Ohioans to score cheap, political points is unacceptable and will be met with strong resistance.