See of an earlier report on the effort to amend Ohio’s constitution in the player above.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — After a delayed start, a group can soon collect signatures to place an independent redistricting commission amendment on Ohioans’ ballots.
The Ohio Ballot Board approved Citizens Not Politicians’ petition summary Thursday morning, ruling it contained a single proposed constitutional amendment. With the ballot board’s certification, the group can soon begin signature-gathering to place the amendment on the 2024 ballot.
The amendment would replace Ohio’s current seven-member bipartisan redistricting commission with a 15-member commission split evenly among Democrats, Republicans and independent voters. It would also prevent any recent politician, lobbyist or major political donor from serving on the commission.
“I believe that we are finally recognizing the will of the people,” board member and Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) said.
The group got off to a rocky start, with two failed attempts at proposing the language to the attorney general’s office. Attorney General Dave Yost had rejected the language once for “misleading language” and a second time for not properly describing discrepancies in determining political affiliation.
The proposed amendment, whose supporters include former Ohio Supreme Court justices and voting rights organizations, came as a response to the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s repeated submission of maps ruled unfairly favorable to Republicans. In 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled both state and congressional maps unconstitutionally gerrymandered about a half dozen times.
“For Ohioans of all political persuasions, this is a big day because the citizens are one step closer to taking the driver’s wheel and putting the politicians in the back seat,” former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a leader of the group, said in a statement. “This amendment will end gerrymandering in Ohio by putting citizens – not politicians – in charge of drawing legislative districts.”
Shortly after the Ohio Redistricting Commission hurriedly approved a slate of new legislative maps in late September, the League of Women Voters of Ohio and other voting rights organizations challenged the new maps as again unconstitutionally deferential to Republican candidates. The organizations have asked the court to accept their objections for review.
Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, said in a statement that signature gatherers will begin as soon as possible, including by collecting signatures outside polling locations in marked “Free Speech” zones.
“We are so pleased we can begin collecting the signatures needed to place redistricting reform on the ballot,” Turcer said. Ohioans have been fighting gerrymandering for years, and we now know it is not enough to put prohibitions on gerrymandering in the Ohio Constitution.
With the petition language certified, the group must wait for Yost to file a copy of the proposed amendment and summary with the Secretary of State. After that, it can begin the lengthy signature collection process. Citizens Not Politicians must collect signatures from at least 10% of voters in the last gubernatorial election and from at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties. For a county to count toward that 44-county requirement, the group must collect signatures from at least 5% of its voters.
Citizens Not Politicians has until 125 days before the targeted election to submit the signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The group aims to place the amendment on the November 2024 ballot, meaning it must submit signatures by early July.