Michigan — yes, Michigan — may hold the solution to Ohio’s future redistricting problems

The following article originally appeared on News5Cleveland.com and is published in The Ohio Capital Journal under a content sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets because it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

Ohio and Michigan have one of the most famous state rivalries across the country, but some supporters say the northern state gets one thing right: redistricting.

The chaos of the Ohio map creation process has caused turmoil for the May 3 primary, with the Ohio Redistricting Commission (ORC) currently working on the fourth set of maps since the previous three were rejected. by the state Supreme Court.

A bipartisan majority in the Court has now rejected the district maps for the third time. The most recent versions of the cards were discarded in a 4-3 decision last Wednesday night. The Court struck down legislative maps passed by Republicans, citing constitutional violations of party patronage or gerrymandering.

ORC Democrats have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to move the primary election to June 28. The High Court responded and ordered the full Commission to file a response, if any, by 9am on Wednesday March 23.

This kerfuffle could have been avoided, according to Donald Wiggins Jr. Although Wiggins Jr. is involved with some nonpartisan nonprofits in Ohio, such as Rank the Vote Ohio, he contacted News 5 as an independent citizen and concerning.

“A mess, a continuation of a mess, that’s what I see,” Wiggins Jr.

He said something had to change at the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“Independent cutting commissions [are] a piece of data,” he added. “One cannot underestimate how important redistricting is to representation, confidence in government allocation of resources, as well as the future of our nation.”

Having politicians decide which districts affect them directly is not fair – on either side, he said.

Wiggins Jr. makes a valid point that many advocates from all political walks of life are now making, said Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Entin.

“It’s definitely something Ohioans who are frustrated with the way this process has worked might want to consider,” the professor said.

Both look to Michigan, which has found a way to get voters, not politicians, to create legislative maps.

“Michigan voters, over 61%, said they want Michigan voters, citizens and residents to draw the maps, not politicians – so they can have fair maps and prevent gerrymandering said Edward Woods III, director of communications and outreach for the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistribution Commission (MICRC).

The Michiganders amended the state Constitution with a ballot proposal in 2018, creating a new redistricting commission. The MICRC is made up of 13 registered voters. Four are Republicans, four are Democrats, and five are unaffiliated with either party.

Article XI, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution created the Ohio Redistricting Commission. It gives full mapping authority to the seven members of the commission.

The ORC is made up of seven political personalities: five Republicans, two Democrats. On the Republican side, Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor Keith Faber, Senate Speaker Matt Huffman and Co-Chairman and Speaker of the House Bob Cupp. On the Democratic side are Co-Chairman and Sen. Vernon Sykes and Republican Minority Leader C. Allison Russo.

However, the Ohio Supreme Court cites Huffman and Cupp as the leaders. In overturning the proposed third maps, the court said Republicans had gone too far to skew the maps in favor of their party, their 74-page document showed. The state still lacks the essential legislative maps to stage an election, with 43 days until the primary scheduled for May 3.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Wiggins Jr said.

He thinks it’s not fair because of the presence of politicians on the Commission, but also added that the system has a direct negative impact on the growing number of independents in the state.

With an independent redistricting commission, he thinks many of the problems the current ORC faces would be non-existent. However, there are a few things that could make it a long shot, Entin said.

“It’s a pretty heavy burden to get a constitutional amendment, especially if you don’t get buy-in from both parties,” he said. “We had that with the amendments for legislative districts and congressional districts leading into this cycle.”

He’s unsure if Ohio would have bipartisan interest in another change, though state Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, in the first redistricting case, suggested considering a commission like the one adopted in Michigan.

“The second question is at least about redistricting Congress,” the professor said. “Several Supreme Court Justices have suggested that the Election Clause of the US Constitution does not authorize anyone but the state legislature to map congressional districts.

“Now, it’s not a majority of the Court, but if a majority of the Court goes that way, then all bets are off. But if the Supreme Court were to accept this so-called ‘doctrine of the legislature independent of the state”, then the idea of ​​independent commissions would be inadmissible.

But by the way, the mechanism that Ohio now has, where maps of congressional districts have to be drawn by the ORC, could also be problematic because the Commission is not the state legislature, even s ‘there are members of the legislature on it,’ he added. So the state is really in kind of an uncertain place right now.

Michigan was not perfect. There has been some controversy over the provision which excluded elected officials and their close relatives from membership in the commission.

“No matter how you do it, someone is going to be upset precisely because the political stakes are so high,” Entin said. “There is no perfect system.”

Although developing an all-new citizen commission would require a constitutional amendment, Ohio may be able to use some aspects of the independent system this year.

“The Commission is now apparently talking about working across party lines,” he said. “The people who put the system in place that we have now — that’s what they had in mind from the start. But that’s not how it happened. »

Currently, the ORC is debating whether they will bring in neutral third-party mappers and work with the group. Wiggins Jr. said this could be the start of a bipartisan collaboration.

“There is an opportunity for individuals to come together, put aside our differences and say, ‘Let’s make sure we have a process that’s fair, that’s proportional, and that really allows us to build a table of humanity for all our brothers, sisters and everyone in between.

Even if an amendment is proposed, it probably won’t be able to come into force before the 2030 census, Entin added. By then, he hopes the commission will find a way to work together.

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