Two State Lawmakers Are Proposing Changes They Say Would Stop Gerrymandering in Ohio

Aug 26, 2016

John Green of the University of Akron's Bliss Institute (left), Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Clyde and Republican state Sen. Frank LaRose were on the panel moderated by Cleveland.com's Thomas Suddes.
Credit KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

Two state lawmakers were at Case Western Reserve University Thursday, explaining their proposals to change the way Ohio’s Congressional districts are drawn.

Democratic State Rep. Kathleen Clyde and Republican State Sen. Frank LaRose were part of the panel on Congressional redistricting, and both said reform needs to happen very soon.

Clyde and LaRose have introduced proposals similar to the one voters passed for Statehouse districts last year, in which a seven-member panel will draw the maps after the 2020 Census.

John Green with the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics was on the panel as well, and says the period after this fall’s election could be the best time to pass Congressional redistricting reform before 2020.

“There are these pauses between elections, which are really the governing time.  And typically, the year after a presidential election is where most of the important legislating goes on.”

Both LaRose and Clyde have said they would encourage a ballot initiative on Congressional redistricting reform if their bills cannot get traction in the Statehouse.

“If the Legislature in Columbus is not willing to give us fair districts in Congress, I think we should encourage a ballot initiative," Clyde said.

LaRose added, “historically, if there’s an effort to gather signatures and put it on the ballot, then maybe that will get our attention in the state Legislature.”

LaRose said the way Congressional districts in Ohio are currently drawn by lawmakers who control the Statehouse leads to “gerrymandering," in which districts are skewed toward one party or another. That, he added,  has allowed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to avoid compromise, since their re-elections are essentially determined by primary contests in “safe” districts.

Here's a link to the video of the session: