Proposed fair-districts plan will empower everyday Ohioans at the expense of Statehouse insiders

For once, good news for Ohioans from the Statehouse:

An enthusiastic throng, spearheaded by the retired chief justice of Ohio’s Supreme Court – Greater Cleveland Republican Maureen O’Connor – celebrated the submission last week of 731,306 signatures by registered voters who are backing a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment (the Citizens Not Politicians plan) to stymie the rigging of General Assembly and Ohio’s U.S. House districts to benefit one party over another.

The Citizens Not Politicians proposal would create a new, nonpartisan and independent panel to draw those legislative and congressional districts to prevent current or former politicians and lobbyists from manipulating district lines.

Said the GOP’s O’Connor, who repeatedly voted against gerrymandering, as it’s known, when she was chief justice, “With today’s signature turn-in, we move one giant step closer to ensuring that the citizens decide who serves [in the legislature and U.S. House], not the politicians who just scheme and rig the game to stay in power. This constitutional amendment will restore power to Ohio citizens and take it away from the self-serving politicians and their lobbyist friends and big-money donors.”

If at least 413,487 of the signatures submitted last week are determined valid by the secretary of state and counties’ Boards of Elections, the petitions would place on November’s ballot an Ohio Constitution amendment creating an independent commission – composed of non-politicians – to fairly draw districts.

According to Citizens Not Politicians, similar panels have been created in seven states: Michigan (the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission); Arizona; California; Colorado; Idaho, Montana; and Washington state.

Ohio’s General Assembly and congressional districts have been drawn by a Redistricting Commission composed of partisan elected officials who deliberately craft boundaries to favor whichever party has control of the panel.

Beginning in 1991, and continuing today, Republicans have controlled districting (“apportionment”) of the Ohio General Assembly and have mapped districts accordingly (since 1995 of U.S. House districts, too).

Result: An Ohio that twice supported Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for the presidency and beginning in 2006 elected a Democrat as one of its two U.S. senators (Sherrod Brown, of Cleveland), and which also in 2006 elected a Democratic governor (Ted Strickland), now has a 99-member House of Representatives composed of 67 Republicans to 32 Democrats, and a 33-member state Senate composed of 26 Republicans, seven Democrats. Meanwhile, Ohio’s 15-member U.S. House delegation has 10 Republicans, five Democrats.

Those incumbencies are based on U.S. House districts the Redistricting Commission OK’d in March 2022 and General Assembly districts it OK’d (albeit, with two Democratic commissioners’ support) in September 2023.

Gerrymandering leads to extremism because General Assembly contests are often decided in GOP primaries, where rivals may aim to “out-right” each other,

As an example of GOP congressional gerrymandering, consider the 6th District, which absurdly stretches from Youngstown to Marietta (at least 164 miles, Google maps says), whose House member is newly elected Rep. Michael Rulli, a Salem Republican.

And bloated GOP Statehouse majorities have been drunk on power, for example repeatedly trying to limit women’s access to abortion in an Ohio whose voters last year – with a 57% “yes” vote – upheld abortion rights. Meanwhile, the State Board of Education begs for operating funds even as legislators consume committee- and floor time attacking LGBTQ Ohioans.

The Citizens Not Politicians event with O’Connor at the Statehouse demonstrated wide-spectrum enthusiasm for the proposed fair-districts plan, something that, if voters agree, will empower everyday Ohioans at the expense of Statehouse insiders, who’ve made the legislature what it is – a pep rally for special interests rather than a place that serves all Ohioans.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at

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