COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Attorney General Dave Yost has rejected an attempt that could have led to an independent commission being created to develop congressional and legislative districts in Ohio.
The proposal, a constitutional amendment that would replace Ohio’s existing redistricting commission with a citizen-led group, was rejected for “vague” and “misleading” language, according to a letter Yost sent to the petition group Wednesday. He highlighted nine issues with the summary, including inconsistencies in the summary and amendment, “material” omissions and confusing statements.
“It is significant to ask voters to make factual findings at the ballot box,” Yost wrote. “A summary that fails to inform a signer of the existence of such findings does not fairly and truthfully reflect the amendment’s report.”
The group Citizens Not Politicians submitted the proposal — which included the proposed amendment, a summary of the amendment and at least 1,000 voters’ signatures of approval — to Yost’s office last week. The coalition, whose members include multiple former Ohio Supreme Court justices, introduced the proposal as a way to end partisan gerrymandering in the state.
Under the proposed amendment, an independent commission would replace the bipartisan commission currently controlled by Republican officials – a commission that submitted about half a dozen maps the Ohio Supreme Court found to be unconstitutionally deferential to Republican candidates. People with significant political influence in the past six years, including former and current elected officials, former campaign workers, registered lobbyists and large political donors, would have been barred from serving on the commission.
Yost described multiple discrepancies between the petition summary and the language of the proposed amendment. In one instance, the petition summary states that the amendment will outline criteria for determining a person’s political party affiliation, but the amendment does not include such criteria.
In another example, Yost pointed to a declaration in the summary that all applicants for a committee selection panel be sent to all retired Ohio judges. The proposed amendment does not include that requirement.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Citizens Not Politicians said the group maintains the accuracy of its proposed amendment.
“But we will review the Attorney General’s guidance, will make necessary adjustments, and will collect new signatures with our broad, statewide, nonpartisan coalition of partners to refile as soon as possible because it’s time for citizens and not politicians to draw Ohio’s legislative maps.”
Initiative petitions are commonly rejected by the attorney general’s office for a slew of reasons. A proposed amendment to end qualified immunity in Ohio, for example, was rejected by Yost last week as similarly misleading. The proposal has been rejected six times in two years.
Read Yost’s rejection letter below.