Legislature's Map Scores Last

Ohio Legislature's Proposed Redistricting Map Scores Last in Redistricting Competition

September 14, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting has scored the Ohio legislature’s proposed redistricting map, HB 319, against the ones received for its competition. HB 319 scores lower than any of the 53 competition maps submitted by private citizens. The Ohio Campaign has also announced the winning maps from the Redistricting Competition.

The districts as proposed in HB 319 pack Democratic voters into four districts, leaving eight districts favoring Republicans.Only two districts are competitive, as opposed to 11 under the top citizen plan. The proposed plan creates 68 county fragments, as compared to nine in the top citizen plan.

“The districts create a new standard for Gerrymandering,” stated Jim Slagle, Manager of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, which is a coalition of 25 Ohio organizations, led by the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action. “The voters don’t deserve a map which would be awarded the booby prize if it were entered in the Ohio Redistricting Competition.”

The winning map was drawn by Mike Fortner, a sitting Illinois state representative, Republican spokesperson for the Illinois House Redistricting Committee, and Associate Professor of Physics at Northern Illinois University. Fortner’s map and other winners were submitted to the Ohio legislature for consideration.

The competition allowed citizens to draw congressional district lines using publicly available software and the same population and voting data that is being used by Ohio public officials. The District Builder software – web-based, open-source map drawing tool – is developed by the Public Mapping Project and supported by Metro Chicago Information Center.

“The quality of the plans submitted and the number of citizens who spent countless hours determining the fairest way to create new congressional districts was remarkable,” stated Ann Henkener, Redistricting Specialist with the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

All maps submitted during the competition are available on line at www.drawthelineohio.org. HB 319 can also be viewed on an interactive webpage via District Builder.

Midwest Democracy Network partner organizations throughout the region have been pushing innovative techniques for regular citizens to be involved in the redistricting process, and informing what changes could be made to improve the process in years to come.

“Across our region, people are looking to their elected officials for help in addressing the economic and societal challenges we face,” said Leah Rush, executive director of Midwest Democracy Network. “If we can lift the veil of secrecy and introduce new standards for the redistricting process that will be used for decades to come, we can kick-start a more meaningful dialogue between the public and public officials.”

Partner groups in Minnesota are using multiple approaches to impact redistricting:

· Common Cause Minnesota is also hosting a competition at DrawMinnesota.org, built on the open-source District Builder software. The winning maps will be submitted to the state’s official redistricting panel in October. Members of the public can provide their own testimony to the committee at one of the upcoming hearings by calling 855-245-0849. More information is available at DrawMinnesota.org.

· The Minnesota Citizens Redistricting Commission is an independent body created by Draw the Line Minnesota (a collaboration of the League of Women Voters Minnesota, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, TakeAction Minnesota, and Common Cause Minnesota) which will produce maps through an open, fair, and participatory process that can inform the courts about this year’s maps, and be a model for future redistricting reforms after this year’s process concludes. The Commission – made up of individuals from across the political and professional spectrums – is gathering testimony at public meetings throughout August and September before submitting their own map to the state’s redistricting panel in October. The next meetings will take place in Maple Grove, MN on Wednesday, September 14; and St. Paul, MN on Monday, September 19. More information is available at Draw the Line Minnesota.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has released a report on this year’s redistricting process called, “Mapping in the Dark: Politics as Usual Under a Façade of Transparency,” which chronicles the new legislation, public hearings, and end product of Illinois redistricting since late 2009. Though early reforms were praised by the Illinois legislature, when it came time to draw the maps, majority Democrats, like their predecessors, “once again relegated citizens to the sidelines, pushing through maps that furthered their political goals but which few residents had time to see, let alone review,” according to the release from the Campaign. The report also outlined recommendations and policies the legislature can adopt to make the next redistricting cycle more open in Illinois. Download the full report on their website.

For more information on redistricting in the Midwest, visit drawthelinemidwest.org.