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From 42 to 12: Forming a citizens' commission

May 29, 2012 - Rob Weaver
A proposal to amend the state constitution to eliminate politics from the drafting of legislative and congressional boundaries would hand the decennial chore to an independent citizens’ commission. As stated in Wednesday’s editorial, formation of the commission would take multiple steps.

First, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court would pick eight appellate judges to comprise a selection committee. Any resident could apply, though Ohioans with political ties, such as lobbyists and those who recently held office, would not be eligible. From pool of applicants, those eight judges would select 42 — 14 from each major political party and 14 independents.

The House speaker and highest ranking member of the minority party would whittle that list to 24. From the remainder, the judges randomly would pick nine — three from each major party and three independents. Those nine then would select the final three members, one from each major party and one not affiliated with a party.

That 12-member commission would be responsible for redrawing districts. The theory is the commission would be free to draw districts which make sense for voters, not incumbents of the dominant party.

Here is a summary of the proposal by Voters First:

The Plan

Voters First’s proposal will create an independent citizens’ commission. Politicians, lobbyists and political insiders are prohibited from serving on the commission. The commission’s work will be open and it will be accountable to the public. The commission will empower voters to choose their politicians instead of politicians picking their voters.

Citizens, not politicians – Instead of the current procedures (in which politicians draw district boundaries that unfairly favor their own party and/or protect incumbents), a 12-member citizens’ commission will create the districts. Any member of the public can submit a plan for consideration.

Openness and transparency — All meetings, records, communications and draft plans of the commission must be open to the public. No more backroom deals.

Balance and impartiality — The citizens’ commission will include equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and the approval of at least seven of the 12 members of the commission will be required for the adoption of any plan. This will ensure that the final plan fairly represents all Ohioans, not just those currently in power.

Community representation — Districts will be created that are geographically compact, and which minimize the division of counties, townships, municipalities and wards between different districts.

Accountability & competitive districts — Politically balanced districts will be created, rather than “safe districts” which make it difficult or impossible for voters to hold elected officials accountable.

Fairness — To the greatest extent possible, the share of districts leaning toward a party will reflect the political preferences of the voters of Ohio.

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