Signatures submitted for Ohio ballot initiative to establish the Citizens Redistricting Commission

In Ohio, the campaign behind a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to create a Citizens Redistricting Commission submitted signatures on July 1, 2024. Voters would decide the ballot initiative on Nov. 5, 2024.

The initiative would replace the current Ohio Redistricting Commission with the Citizens Redistricting Commission. Currently, the Ohio Redistricting Commission has seven members, including the Ohio House Speaker and Ohio Senate President, along with the governor, secretary of state, auditor of state, and two minority party legislative leaders.

Redistricting is the process of enacting new district boundaries for elected offices, particularly for offices in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. The states redraw district lines every 10 years following the completion of the U.S. census. The federal government requires that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. In 33 of these states, state legislatures play the dominant role in congressional redistricting. In nine states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, and Washington—commissions draw congressional district lines. In two states—New York and Virginia—hybrid systems are used, in which the legislatures share redistricting authority with commissions. 

The ballot initiative would replace Ohio’s Redistricting Commission with a 15-member Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC). The CRC would include five members matching the political party of the governor, five members from the party of the gubernatorial candidate who received the second-most votes in the most recent election, and five unaffiliated members. The initiative would ban current or former politicians, party officials, and lobbyists from serving on the commission.

Citizens Not Politicians, the campaign supporting the initiative, submitted 731,306 signatures to the secretary of state’s office. In order for the initiative to qualify for the ballot, 413,488 signatures must be verified. Ohio also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures be gathered from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Petitioners needed to gather signatures equal to a minimum of half the total required percentage of the gubernatorial vote in each of the 44 counties.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor (R), who supports the initiative, said of the proposed commission, “They’re not party operatives, they’re not people who have relationships with elected officials, they’re not people whose family members work for elected officials. This is as pure a system as you could possibly get to have citizens, not politicians, draft these maps.”

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R), who opposes the initiative, said, “I think that the people who are making an important decision like this ought to be elected officials who are accountable to the public, not unknown bureaucrats somewhere someplace and subject to whatever rules (are in) a 32-page, single spaced document.”

Ohio voters previously decided on thirteen redistricting-related ballot measures. In 2012, voters rejected Issue 2, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that would have created a 12-person non-politician commission to draw legislative and congressional district maps and barred lobbyists and elected officials from joining the commission. Voters rejected this initiative, with 36.82% voting for it and 63.18% voting against it.

Voters approved two legislatively referred redistricting-related constitutional amendments in 2015 and 2018. Voters approved an amendment that created the current Ohio Redistricting Commission by 71.47% in 2015 and approved another amendment that changed procedures for congressional redistricting by 74.89%-25.11% in 2018.

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