SLAY THE DRAGON follows everyday people, outraged by what they see as an attack on the core democratic principle that every person’s vote should count equally. This election year, we’re joining together with grassroots partners to put an end to gerrymandering. Because this issue impacts each state differently, we’ve created a map to help you navigate how gerrymandering affects your state and community. SLAY THE DRAGON arrives on demand April 3.
What’s going on in Ohio
Hybrid Commission System
Beginning in 2021, Ohio will use two unique systems to draw its congressional and state legislative districts.
- For congressional districts, the Legislature must attempt to pass redistricting plans with bipartisan support. If this fails, then the task goes to a seven-member commission composed of the Governor, State Auditor, Secretary of State, and one person appointed by each state legislative leader. If the commission fails, then the task goes back to the Legislature. If there is still a lack of bipartisan support, the resulting plan will go into effect for only four years, after which this process will begin again.
- For state legislative districts, the same seven-member commission that serves as a backup for drawing congressional districts has the primary responsibility for drawing state legislative maps. The length of time for which the maps are in effect depends on the breakdown for how they are adopted: if at least two commissioners from each party vote for the maps, they remain in effect for the entire decade. But if the maps are adopted on a party-line vote, they will only be in effect for four years.
In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Ohio’s state constitution (Art. XI) requires that state legislative and congressional districts be compact, contiguous, and preserve whole single counties. Furthermore, for state legislative districts only, favoring an incumbent or party is prohibited, and the partisan lean of state legislative districts should be proportional to the statewide preferences of Ohio voters.
On the second round of congressional districting in the Legislature, a plan cannot unduly favor or disfavor a political party or its incumbents, cannot unduly split governmental units, and must attempt to draw districts that are compact. Maps produced by this second round must also include an explanation of how they complied with the criteria.
The two processes for the drawing of maps have separate public input requirements. Both require the acceptance of public map submissions.
- For the congressional process, either a joint committee of the Legislature or the backup commission, depending on the stage of the process, must hold at least two public hearings before adopting a map.
- For the state legislative process, the commission must hold at least three public hearings prior to adopting a map. Additionally, the state legislative commission must electronically broadcast its meetings in a publicly accessible way.
Redistricting disputes will be decided by the state Supreme Court, which is currently controlled by conservatives. Two seats on the state Supreme Court are up for election in 2020. These elections, combined with later elections in 2022, will determine whether liberals or conservatives control the court.
It is possible that the new hybrid commission process could perpetuate partisanship in redistricting. While maps adopted on party lines will only last four years, instead of a full decade, legislators could conceivably continue to pass four-year partisan maps. The best way to prevent this from happening is to get involved in the public input process and place pressure on elected representatives.
Based upon a recent estimate of congressional seat changes following the 2020 census, Ohio is estimated to lose one congressional seat.
- State legislative redistricting plan deadlines (Art. XI § 1):
- Bipartisan majority deadline: September 1, 2021
- Simple majority deadline: September 15, 2021
- Congressional redistricting plans deadline (Art. XII § 1):
- Legislature plan deadline: September 30, 2021
- Commission bipartisan majority deadline: October 31, 2021
- Legislature second chance deadline: November 30, 2021
The Census Bureau may delay sending population data to states until as late as July 31, 2021. In the case of delay, it may be difficult for Ohio to maintain the current state legislative redistricting schedule, and public input may need to be compressed for congressional redistricting. Ohio may need to take formal action to adjust redistricting schedules.
In the 2011 cycle, plaintiffs argued that Ohio's new congressional district plan unfairly advantages Republicans in a federal lawsuit (Randolph Institute v. Householder). The Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court in October 2019 to be dismissed in light of the Court's ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause that federal courts have no jurisdiction to hear partisan gerrymandering claims. As a result, Ohio’s 2011 congressional map will remain in place until 2022, after the 2020 elections.
Defend the new system, which moves in the right direction away from full legislative control to a hybrid commission system, while advocating for further reforms.
- Write to your local news organization in support of the new commission system.
- Support state legislative candidates who favor fair districting. The entire Ohio House and half of the Ohio Senate will be up for re-election in 2020.
- Advocate for a genuinely fair constitutional amendment that creates an independent redistricting commission. Read the Common Cause Activist Handbook on Redistricting Reform to learn about what reforms have been successful in the past, and what steps to take to enact reform in the future.
- In 2020 and 2022, support voting rights advocates in judicial elections.
In 2021, participate in the public input process.
- Obtain Ohio redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
- Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the commission or Legislature starts collecting feedback.
- Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.