State Issue 4 - Redistricting

Issue 4 on the November 8th ballot is an attempt to provide for an "independent redistricting process that also ensures competitive elections whenever possible." See ballot language for Issue 4.

The passage of Issue 4 would create the Ohio Independent Redistricting Commission (OIRC). Composed of five members, OIRC would, every ten years, divide the state into legislative districts for the election of General Assembly as well as U.S. House of Representatives members. The primary way for the OIRC to determine these districts would be by mathematical formula, a scheme designed to add competition to an election cycle increasingly dominated by unbeatable incumbents. Small allowances to the formula may be made to maintain the integrity of communities of interest based on geography, economics or race. If the issue passes with a simple majority, the first such change would take place in 2007; each subsequent redistricting would take place every decade in the year immediately following the decennial census.

People who oppose Issue 4 say that this system would create a layer of bureaucracy that insulates those responsible for redistricting from the voters. The appointees of the OIRC, subject to a stringent process designed to make sure they have no potentially unethical ties, would not only be largely unqualified but would serve for an indefinite amount of time. Beyond that, this amendment would remove from the Ohio courts the power to review the commission's activities; instead, the Ohio Supreme Court would only have the power to command the OIRC to perform its duties, not rule on the redistricting plans themselves. This gives the OIRC a power not present in any of Ohio 's other commissions, boards and agencies. Finally, whatever redistricting scheme is ultimately adopted by the commission may have as many gerrymandered and unusually constructed districts as exist right now.

Proponents of the plan point out that elections in Ohio are sadly uncompetitive. In the most recent elections all state senators up for reelection won their seats back. The same was true for those running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Proponents of Issue 4 want a system where politicians do not get to draw districts that favor their own reelection or the reelection of party mates. Instead, legislative districts ought to be decided by an independent commission that uses a neutral mathematical formula not designed to guarantee the continued elections of the same people. This would end the tendency of so many elections being functionally decided in the primaries, a phenomena that tends to favor extremism in politicians.

Issue 4 provides the mechanism by which a redistricting plan for Ohio can be proposed and implemented. Any person interested in proposing a plan must file their intent by May 15 th of the relevant year. Then, using data provided by OIRC, the person must file the final plans with the commission by July 1 st . The OIRC will then conduct five open meetings around the state in order to get public comments on the proposed plans. Each submitted plan will be ranked by its "competitiveness number," essentially a number that is higher for plans that have more competitive districts. The plan or plans with the highest such number become the apparent prevailing plans. If two or more plans tie, the commission will adopt the plan with the fewest county, municipal and township fragments. The decision will be made no later than the last day of September.

The committee itself will be comprised of five people. The first two members of the OIRC will be appointed by the longest and second longest serving judges on the state court of appeals, each of whom is a nominee of a separate party. Those first two members will then select the other three members in an application process designed to weed out, as much as possible, partisans. After the initial redistricting process in 2007, the committee will redistrict the state once every decade, starting in 2011.

Groups that are in favor of Issue 4 include the Ohio Education Association and the Sierra Club of Ohio. Groups opposing the issue include the Ohio Manufacturers' Association and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.