COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way Ohio draws congressional districts said Monday they oppose a competing plan brought forward in the state Legislature.
Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio member organizations, including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Ohio, said they plan to fight the rival proposal of Republican state Rep. Matt Huffman.
“It is unfair to voters, it does not provide relief from the current situation of partisan gerrymandering and it does make things worse,” said Ann Heneker, representing the League of Women Voters.
Huffman’s proposal, introduced last week, is intended for the May ballot. It gives the Legislature primary responsibility for approving a 10-year map and requires at least one-third of the minority party, currently the Democrats, to agree to the new district lines.
“We have heard the concerns of Ohioans to ensure that the process for drawing congressional district lines is fair and equitable no matter which party is in the majority, and we are committed to reaching a reasonable solution in a bipartisan manner,” he said in releasing the plan.
Fair Elections is advocating a proposal for November’s ballot that’s modeled after a plan overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters in 2015, which only affected map-making for state legislative districts.
The dueling proposals come amid national concern about political maps.
An Associated Press analysis last year found that the current map-making process controlled by Ohio Republicans resulted in the party winning nearly two more U.S. House seats in the last election than would have been expected in neutral circumstances.
The analysis found Republican candidates for Ohio’s U.S. House seats won 58 percent of the votes but 75 percent of the state’s 16 congressional seats.
Huffman’s redistricting plan would send legislative stalemates over congressional maps to the Redistricting Commission that Ohio voters approved in 2014 and require a majority vote, with minority support, for approval. Otherwise, a temporary four-year map would go into effect.
Lawmakers could make the four-year map into the new 10-year map with a 50 percent vote of each chamber that includes one-fifth of the minority party. At current levels, that would amount to two Democrats in the 33-member Senate and seven Democrats in the 99-member House, a setup critics says is designed to create divisions within the minority party.
Sam Gresham, of Common Cause, said he believes voters have gotten savvier about the impacts of congressional district boundaries as they’ve watched politics in Washington grow increasingly divisive.
“Before, we’ve had people glaze over,” he said. “But now people are getting emotionally involved because they understand how these districts have been drawn and they want to fight against it.”
Ohio NAACP President Tom Roberts agreed: “What’s going on in Washington right now just shows the stalemate that takes places when you don’t have fair districts.”