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HJR 11 (federal legislative districts) and HJR 12 (state legislative redistricts) were recently introduced in the Ohio General Assembly.  Under HJR 12, a seven member panel, including the governor, secretary of state, auditor of state, and four legislative appointments (two from each party) creates the districts.  A member of the minority party must vote in favor of the district map, which will be in place until the next census (10 years if a map is adopted in a census year).  If a minority vote is not obtained, the plan adopted by the panel will be used for the next election, while the question of whether to accept the map or redraw it is automatically put before voters .   If voters accept the map, it would only be in place for half of the remaining legislative elections before the new census (it is in effect for less time than if adopted by the panel including a minority vote).

As far as congressional districting is concerned, HJR 11 provides that a six member board draws the map.  The board consists of six members of the General Assembly, two appointed by the Speaker of the House, two appointed by the President of the Senate, and two appointed by minority leaders in each body.  One board member from the minority party has to approve the map.  If such approval is not forthcoming, a map can be approved by four board members, two Senators and two Representatives.   Then the plan must be approved by a majority of the House and Senate.  If the General Assembly does not pass a plan, the proposed plan goes into effect for one year, while the the question of whether to accept the map or redraw it is put before the voters.

Under HJR 11, “A congressional district plan that becomes effective under this section is not subject to the referendum and is not subject to the veto of the Governor. The electors may not propose a congressional district plan by initiative.”  This is different than the current system, where the Governor can veto a district plan and the plan is subject to referendum.

Representative Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who proposed these joint resolutions, recently addressed the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission’s Legislative Branch and Executive Branch Committee.   Committee  members questioned whether this process gives enough incentive for the majority to get minority approval of a district map.  Huffman was asked to explain why, absent at least one minority vote, the issue should go to the ballot rather than to federal court.  Huffman said that it was likely that federal court judges would vote according to the party line of their appointing president.  The plan was also criticized for removing the Governor’s veto, referendum and initiative.  It was noted the plan lacks guidance for drawing a new map.

SJR 1 also sets forth a redistricting mechanism, and the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission considered adopting a modified version of SJR 1.

See Hannah News, Nov. 13, 2014,  Huffman Outlines New Redistricting Proposals to OCMC Committee.

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