The business case for rejecting Ohio gerrymandering

This article delves into the history of redistricting of the Ohio General Assembly and presents the business case for rejecting partisan gerrymandering. It also identifies the Citizens Not Politicians amendment, which its supporters believe will end partisan gerrymandering by assigning redistricting to an independent 15-person commission composed of five Democrats, 5 Republicans, and five independents.

The Focus on State-Level Gerrymandering

Partisan gerrymandering at the state results in the election of highly partisan super-majorities within the General Assembly. I focus on the state legislature, not Congress, because of the outsized impact of what happens in Columbus on all Ohioans. And with the July 3, 2024, deadline approaching for the submitting of the 413,487 valid signatures to place the Citizens Not Politicians amendment on the ballot, those contemplating signing the petition for the amendment (or ultimately voting on it) should be aware of the threats posed by partisan gerrymandering. 

The History of Redistricting in Ohio

The seeds for partisan gerrymandering in Ohio were planted in our first constitution, the Constitution of 1802, which brought us into the Union as the 17th state. That constitution established a system of legislative supremacy and gave the General Assembly unlimited power to draw district lines for both the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. The only standard was that state legislative lines were to be based on “the number of white male inhabitants above twenty-one years of age” in each county. 

Reform of the Ohio Constitution was the major political issue in Ohio in the late 1840s, and it took a gerrymandering crisis in Hamilton County to break the legislative deadlock and put a constitutional call on the ballot.

The voters approved the call for a constitutional convention, and the resulting Ohio Constitution of 1851 curtailed many of the powers of the General Assembly. This included removing the General Assembly completely from the process of state legislative redistricting. In its place, this power was given to three statewide officers — the governor, the secretary of state, and the State Auditor.

Read more here.