Voters may decide redistricting process in November election

Over the next few weeks, Ohioans may be asked to sign a petition for a redistricting amendment put on by a group called Citizens not Politicians.

“We’re collecting thousands of signatures every day and we are confident that we are going to qualify for the ballot,” Citizens not Politicians spokesperson Chris Davey said.

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The group aims to have its proposed amendment on the ballot in November for voters to decide on. The initiative aims to take politicians out of the map-drawing process.

Redistricting determines which state House and Senate and congressional races voters will get a say in. Make-up of the Ohio House and Senate can ultimately determine things like what bills move forward and become law.

Right now, politicians are charged with drawing those maps.

The last round, which took place last fall, consisted of five Republican politicians and two Democratic politicians coming up with the maps, which passed unanimously, but there is still a call for change.

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“Literally in the dark of night, Democrats and Republicans got together and forced gerrymandered maps on the people of Ohio,” Davey said. “And the citizens are done with it.”

Davey said the proposal is not about getting a party out of power.

“When Democrats held the open in Ohio in the 80s, they gerrymandered and now it’s another party that is holding the pen,” Davey said.

But Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said he is not sure that is the case.

“It will affect two groups of people, by and large: African-American legislators and will affect moderate Republicans,” Huffman said. “You are going to have a group of far-left progressive legislators elected.”

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Under the proposed amendment, the commission would be made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and five independents, all Ohio citizens, selected after a screening process.

“If you’re a politician or a former politician or a lobbyist or any of the other political insiders who have been rigging the game all these years, you’re barred from participating in the process,” Davey said. “Instead, we are going to have everyday citizens from across Ohio participate in this process.”

Davey said the amendment is based on — not identical to — states like Michigan and California, which he said have successfully implemented citizen-led redistricting commissions. But Huffman said the proposal goes far beyond just creating an independent commission.

“Even the folks who are for this say, ‘Yeah, this is really complex and hard to understand,’” Huffman said. “This is removing the decision-making power for redistricting from the voters.”

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But Huffman is not completely opposed to something new.

“There are probably a lot of different things we could improve,” he said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine said the governor, “in principle, supports redistricting by a citizen’s commission, but has not made a comment on this proposal yet because it has a number of problematic provisions.”

The spokesperson added that it “significantly changes redistricting rules” by changing how you must divide cities and counties, which was part of a 2015 redistricting ballot initiative that was “very popular with voters.”

“I think this current effort is to try and make this as opaque as possible,” Huffman said. “People don’t know exactly what’s going on, somebody somewhere is doing something and voilà, there’s a map.”

“We have Democrats, independents and Republicans who are part of this coalition,” Davey said. “This is an elegant, well-thought-out process that has been drawn up by Ohioans for Ohio.”

The group needs to collect 413,000 valid signatures by July 3 to qualify for the ballot. Davey said they are “well on pace to meet that goal.”

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