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Yesterday, H.J.R. 2, a proposal to revise the redistricting process for congressional districts, was introduced in the Ohio House.  The proposal would, via new language added to the Ohio Constitution, create an independent Ohio Redistricting Commission and take the redistricting process out of the hands of the state legislature.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in cases concerning whether independent congressional redistricting commissions are valid under the U.S. Constitution, or whether the Constitution reserves this task solely for state legislatures.   See NPR, Supreme Court Seems Divided Over Independent Redistricting Commissions.   The cases are: Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission , Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama.  See Hannah Report, LaRose Working on Congressional Reform if Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Process.

HJR 2 would change the current redistricting process by creating a seven member Ohio Redistricting Commission , including the governor, auditor and secretary of state plus one member appointed by the Speaker of the House, one appointed by the President of the Senate, and two members appointed by minority leaders in each body.  This appears to be the same body as the Ohio Redistricting Commission that would be created for redistricting pertaining to the Ohio Legislature, as described in HJR 12.  The affirmative vote of four members of the commission, including at least two members of the commission who represent each of the two largest political parties represented in the general assembly, shall be required to adopt any congressional district plan.  There must be three public hearings before a redistricting plan is adopted.

If the Ohio Redistricting Commission is unable to approve a plan with  approval of at least one member of each of the two largest political parties, then a plan can be approved by the majority vote of the Commission, after a public hearing.  If the plan is adopted by a simple minority vote it will be in effect for two general elections for the United States House of Representatives (which are held every even numbered year) have occurred under the plan, instead of being in effect for ten years.    If the plan is adopted by simple majority, the Commission must issue an explanation of what the Commission determined to be the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio and how the proportion of districts in the plan whose voters favor a political party corresponds closely to statewide preferences.  The Ohio Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over congressional redistricting cases.

HJR 2 also sets out guidelines for how the districts must be drawn.

In the last legislative session,  HJR 11  also proposed to amend the congressional redistricting process, but it was different than the current HJR 2. For example, the impasse mechanism required a majority of the board to approve a plan, then it must be voted upon by the General Assembly.  See our prior post New Ohio Redistricting Idea Proposed with Only Weeks Left in the Legislative Session. The governor, auditor and secretary of state were not on the commission under HJR 11.

As you may recall, the last general assembly succeeded in passing an initiative to reform how districts for the Ohio legislature are drawn.  See our prior post: New Redistricting Procedure Will Go to Ohio Voters

Also see Ohio.com, Finish the job of repairing redistricting



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