Ohio Senate adopts redistricting reform measure, House concurrence expected


During what was likely the final Senate Session of the 130th General Assembly, Ohio Senators approved a resolution that will reform the redistricting process for General Assembly districts. The proposal, House Joint Resolution 12 (H.J.R. 12), has been the subject of weeks of debate and discussion. Negotiations on Thursday, December 11 went well into the early morning hours. At 3:20 a.m. on Friday, December 12, the Senate Rules Committee reconvened to adopt a substitute bill reflecting terms agreed upon by representatives from both political parties in both chambers of the General Assembly. A vote was taken on the Senate floor just after 4:00 a.m., and the measure passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 29-1.

H.J.R. 12 replaces the current Apportionment Board with the Ohio Redistricting Commission, a bipartisan commission consisting of the governor, the Auditor of State, the Secretary of State, and four members appointed by majority and minority leaders in the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The commission will meet to draw new maps in every year ending in the numeral one.

The commission is required to adopt new district maps with a bipartisan vote of at least four members. If it fails to adopt maps with a bipartisan majority, the commission will be required, not later than September 15, to hold a public hearing on a proposed plan and adopt a final plan either with bipartisan support or with a simple majority.

Any map adopted with bipartisan support will go into effect for 10 years — until the commission is reconvened in the next year ending in the numeral one.

If a map is adopted by a simple majority and without bipartisan support, it will be effective until two general elections for the House of Representative have occurred under the plan. Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years. After the plan has been in effect for two House election cycles, the commission must convene to adopt new district maps, which will then be in effect until the next year ending in the numeral one.

The resolution provides that the Ohio Supreme Court has exclusive, original jurisdiction in all cases arising out of the redistricting process. H.J.R. 12 states that the Court is prohibited from ordering the implementation or enforcement of any plan not approved by the commission and may not order the commission to draw a particular district or adopt any particular plan.

With respect to the requirements and parameters for drawing General Assembly district maps, the resolution establishes new constitutional standards for those maps. H.J.R. 12 would require that the population of the state, as determined by the federal decennial census, be divided by 99 to establish the ratio of representation in the House of Representatives and 33 to determine the ratio for the Senate. Populations of each district must be substantially equal to those ratios, and in no case may a district contain a population less than 95 percent or more than 105 percent of the ratio. Maps are required to comply with applicable Ohio and federal law and must be composed of contiguous territory bound by a single nonintersecting continuous line.

The resolution also provides for how counties, municipal corporations and townships may be split when forming General Assembly districts and states when splitting may occur.

In addition, the resolution states that the maps adopted by the commission should attempt to meet three standards: districts should not be drawn to favor or disfavor a political party; the proportion of districts favoring each political party should mirror the statewide preferences of Ohio voters; and districts shall be compact.

In a press conference held before the Senate voted on H.J.R. 12, Representatives Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Matt Huffman (R-Lima) indicated their expectation that the House would concur with the Senate’s changes to the resolution. The House is scheduled to hold its last session on Wednesday, December 17.

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