Redistricting forum offers resources for citizens, activists
Thursday, Mar. 4, 2010
A redistricting forum Monday brought together a number of experts and policy makers who offered perspectives on the sticky subject of how to draw the political lines for the next decade.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund, the Midwest Democracy Network, and the Ohio Citizen Action Money In Politics Project sponsored the statewide forum in Columbus. Experts included Justin Levitt from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, Dr. Michael McDonald from George Mason University, Dr. Mark Salling of Cleveland State University, and Illinois State Representative Mike Fortner (a winner of the 2009 Ohio Redistricting Competition).
Also on the program were state Senator Jon Husted and Representative Tom Letson, sponsors of two redistricting resolutions currently being considered in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Levitt gave a presentation called Redistricting 101. The presentation adopts the Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How framework to explain the process of redistricting and the importance of representation based upon Census counts in a simple, easy-to-grasp format.
McDonald presented the Midwest Mapping Project, which offers several methods for accomplishing redistricting. Ohio is one of several featured states for which he provides redistricting options.
The forum participants heard an interesting discussion from Husted on SJR 5 and from Letson on HJR 15. The legislators gave their perspectives on the debate thus far and the challenge of getting a proposal through the Ohio legislature. If a proposal is adopted by the General Assembly in the next few months, Ohio voters would have the opportunity to vote in November 2010 on a new redistricting process.
Common criticism of the current system is that it discourages challengers, and practically guarantees incumbents' reelections, dilutes minorities' votes, and splits communities.
Ohio is considered a swing state because it is roughly evenly split by party affiliation; however, the elected representation is slightly more than 60 percent tilted toward one party. The League believes that the current system allows the dominant party to draw lines that advantage its political interest rather than in a way that is truly representative.