Ohio Senate Passes Historic Congressional Redistricting Reform Plan with Bipartisan Support

COLUMBUS— With unanimous, bipartisan support, the Ohio Senate today passed a plan to reform the process for drawing Ohio’s congressional districts. The passage of Substitute Senate Joint Resolution 5 follows weeks of good faith negotiations between the leadership of both parties in the General Assembly and various redistricting reform advocates.

“The work of redistricting is historically contentious and hyperpartisan, but it does not need to be. For years we have debated how best to draw our congressional districts to better serve the people of Ohio; tonight we see that work come to fruition,” said State Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson). “I believe this plan creates a bipartisan process, compelling statesmen and women to come together to create fair districts, focusing on what is best for Ohioans not one party or the other.”

LaRose has championed efforts for redistricting reform since 2011, when he introduced his first bipartisan resolution, along with former State Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron). In the ensuing years he has been one of the leading voices in Ohio on this issue. In March 2017, LaRose introduced Senate Joint Resolution 3, a redistricting reform proposal that helped form the basis for S.J.R. 5, which passed today.

The reforms keep communities together by limiting divisions of counties, townships and municipalities.

  • S.J.R. 5 specifies that at least 65 counties will be kept whole and limits how many total county splits can occur.
  • Cleveland and Cincinnati will remain whole within their districts. Additional safeguards are put in place to prevent unnecessary splitting of Ohio’s municipalities and townships.

The plan requires significant support from both parties, ensuring a map with bipartisan approval.

  • Step one: A 10-year map proposed by the General Assembly requires a three-fifths vote in each chamber with at least half of the minority party’s vote. If there is no agreement on the map, the process moves to the bipartisan Redistricting Commission, which Ohio voters approved in 2015.
  • Step two: A 10-year map drawn by the 7-member Commission requires two minority votes to pass. If that effort fails, the map drawing responsibility moves back to the legislature.
  • Step three: A 10-year map requires a three-fifths vote in each chamber with a one-third vote of the minority party. If the required votes are not obtained, a 4-year map can be passed with a simple majority, but triggers significant safeguards to protect against partisan excess.

More highlights include:

  • Preserving and protecting voters’ civil rights.
  • Protecting the governor’s ability to veto a map.
  • Maintaining Ohioans’ ability to file a referendum against a congressional map.
  • Clarifying that a court challenge can be brought to an entire map not just individual districts.

“This resolution embodies the spirit of civility and compromise that voters want to see from their elected officials, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together,” added LaRose. “If this plan receives final approval, it will ultimately fall to the people charged with carrying out this process—to do so in the same spirit of compromise with which it was drafted.”

Sub. S.J.R. 5 now moves to the Ohio House for consideration. Once passed by the General Assembly, it will go to the May ballot for voters to approve.

# # #

From a press release originally distributed by State Senator Frank LaRose.