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Ohio lawmakers pass bipartisan redistricting reform to fight gerrymandered districts

Posted at 10:25 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-06 05:47:15-05

Lawmakers in the state Senate on Monday reached a historic compromise on reforming how the state draws its congressional districts.

The decision passed unanimously out of the Senate. The bipartisan agreement will likely reshape the congressional districts in Ohio, keeping communities together and making sure votes actually matter.

"The infamous Marcy Kaptur bridge... these are clearly lines that have gone too far," said News 5 political analyst, Tom Sutton.

If you spend a few seconds looking at Ohio's map of congressional districts (pictured above), you'll notice it doesn't make much sense.

District 9, Democrat Marcy Kaptur's district, is a slim sliver that runs from Toledo to Cleveland along Lake Erie.

District 4 belongs to Republican Jim Jordan. It would take someone hours to drive from one end to the other.

In the 16th, Republican Jim Renacci's district encompasses western Cuyahoga County, but carves out Cleveland and Akron.

"You wouldn't see the kinds of crazy splits like we see in Summit and Cuyahoga of four different congressional districts in the one county which were done essentially to create these super majority Republican districts," said Sutton.

Sutton says the historic agreement is a major win for Ohio voters.

"Second, you would see the minority voice being substantial as opposed to the current situation where whatever party holds three of the five seats that make the decision, has essentially the ultimate say," he said.

The new, bipartisan rules, if approved by voters in May, will do three things:

  1. Keep communities together by limiting divisions of counties and townships.
  2. Ensure a map with bipartisan approval by requiring significant support from both parties.
  3. Preserves voters' civil rights.

Across the country, the rules are being challenged around redistricting. The Supreme Court even weighed in Monday, announcing it won't stop Pennsylvania's highest court from requiring lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional map, which was found to be gerrymandered and too partisan.

"The nature of American politics is that the party in power will always seek to gain its own advantage, whether it's Democrats or Republicans," said Sutton.

Tuesday or Wednesday, the Ohio House will vote on the Senate's proposal. If approved, it will go to Governor Kasich, who has expressed support for it. Finally, it will be added as a ballot item in the May primary for the Ohio voters to approve.