COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Columbus is working toward having something it has never had before: city council districts.

The Council Residential Districting Commission held its first-ever meeting Wednesday night.

When this is all said and done, the city will be broken into nine council districts, with each district having its own city council members.

“We’re excited to begin the 2021 districting work,” said Malik Moore, chairman of the Council Residential Districting Commission. “What give me more hope right now is not that the process now be in its most perfect form, but that it be in a better form.”

The plan, approved in 2018, means there will be two additional council members.

It will be the commission’s job to draw up proposed maps which city council will eventually decide on.

During the commission’s first meeting, the Department of Neighborhoods presented about existing area commissions and civic associations. The Department of Development also presented, showing growth expectations, how Columbus has grown since its founding, and how redlining has had a lasting effect on the city.

Everything the commission learned Wednesday and at future meetings will go into how the maps are drawn.

“To understand who might need to have their voice amplified or whose voice might have been historically stifled and how do these new districts possibly leverage what we see to be critical voices that aren’t lifting up,” Moore said.

Each district will have its own member who must live in their district. Members will be at large, meaning even though they have a district, they can still be voted on by all city residents.

“In some ways, what Columbus has tried to do is to get some of the benefits of districts without some of the costs, right, so that’s why we still have city wide elections,” said Professor Vladimir Kogan, associate professor of political science at Ohio State University. “Whether that works, I think, is going to be an interesting question to watch, whether it does provide some of those representational gains, given the elections are still going to be city wide.” 

Kogan added that the model the city is looking at is unusual and that he can only think of one other major city that uses the same model.

“Ultimately, knowing that, collectively, we have a voice and we have a power to lift up someone from our region,” said Malik Moore, chairperson of the Council Residential Districting Commission. “It gives me more hope than the existing model.

The commission plans to present three proposed maps to council in the fall. Council then has to approve one of them before the end of the year.

The commission will meet again on May 12.