Opinion: Redistricting reform takes another step forward

Contact Ray Paoletta at rpaolet1@kent.edu.

Contact Ray Paoletta at [email protected].

Ray Paoletta

In the middle of December 2014, both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly passed a plan to reform the way state legislative districts are drawn. 

Recently, Ohio has been criticized for drawing state house and senate districts, along with Congressional districts that favor one party over the other — despite Ohio being a swing state where neither party greatly outnumbers the other.

But on Nov. 3, Ohio voters will choose whether to approve a new plan to redraw the state legislative districts.

The plan will create a commission that will redraw the house and senate districts beginning after the 2020 census. The commission will consist of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and a lawmaker from each party that have the power to draw the state legislative districts and the state’s Congressional districts every 10 years. 

A proposed map must have two votes from the minority party to be put in place, according to the Toledo Blade. The goal of redistricting is to have races and districts that better demonstrate the competitive and politically diverse state that Ohio actually is. 

During the last five presidential elections, no candidate has earned more than 52 percent of the popular vote in Ohio.

Despite statewide elections being contested, currently Republicans hold 60 percent of Ohio House seats and 70 percent of the Ohio Senate seats. The current legislative districts have been drawn to benefit the Republican Party — with many democratic voters put into as few districts as possible and republican candidates run in very conservative, safe house and senate districts. 

This system helps keep a party and politicians in power, but it does a disservice to the citizens of Ohio. The consequences of districts drawn to favor a particular party lead to voter apathy and low voter turnout along with increase partisan gridlock. The most competitive contests become primaries in which the most conservative and most liberal candidate runs in an uncontested race. 

Furthermore, I think the current map gives no incentive for people to get out and vote. If a race is believed to be decided before the election, people will not make it a priority to go to the polls. In addition, a Democrat will not see the need to vote in a heavily Republican district and vice versa. 

I think the redistricting plan put forth from the Ohio General Assembly will likely lead to competitive elections that will force candidates from both parties to move to the center in order to appeal to more voters. This would be a step forward in breaking down the partisan gridlock that plagues this country as candidates and elected officials would have to please voters of both parties and independents if they intend to keep their job. 

Although this does not apply to Ohio’s U.S. congressional seats, one can hope that the next step is that the process of drawing those seats is the next election reform. 

The bottom line is that elected politicians are supposed to serve the people, not themselves. By keeping unfair districts, it serves to the wellbeing of the politicians and puts those who associate themselves in the minority in the dark. 

How is that democratic?