COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A proposed constitutional amendment to overhaul Ohio’s process for drawing political maps has been rejected for the second time.
Attorney General Dave Yost rejected a group’s second petition summary Thursday, sending a proposal to create an independent redistricting commission back to the drawing board. Each attempt — the first step of a lengthy process to get constitutional amendments on the ballot — was rejected for summary language that would “mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment.”
Unlike the first attempt, which Yost said he rejected for multiple “omissions and statements,” the second petition summary was rejected for a single issue: how political affiliation is determined.
The amendment, proposed by the group Citizens Not Politicians, would replace Ohio’s seven-member, bi-partisan redistricting commission with a 15-member commission whose members are equally split among Democrats, Republicans and independent voters. It would also prevent any recent politician, lobbyist or major political donor from serving on the commission.
But Yost said the revised petition summary failed to “fairly and truthfully” describe discrepancies for determining political affiliation for the commission versus a bipartisan screening panel that would select commission members. The amendment outlines that the political affiliation of applicants to the commission will be determined using primary election voting history, political contributions and campaign activities, but it does not outline that determination for the screening panel.
“The key element to this new system is bipartisanship — both on the screening Panel and on the Commission. In fact, the foundation of the entire system is rooted in the tempering of political power and influence with a precise balance of political or non-political affiliated members,” Yost wrote in his rejection letter. “Thus, how political affiliation is determined, who makes those determinations and what rules apply are critical issues that must be included in a summary of the proposed amendment if it is to be fair and truthful.”
Citizens Not Politicians, whose membership includes former Ohio Supreme Court justices, has put forth the amendment as a way to end partisan gerrymandering in Ohio.
The state constitution prohibits state legislative and congressional maps that unduly favor one political party. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled multiple political maps drawn last year unconstitutionally gerrymandered, but due to a looming election, Ohio was ordered to use the maps.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission, which Citizens Not Politicians seeks to replace, is tasked with drawing state legislative maps for the 2024 election. The commission met for the first time in over a year on Wednesday, but disagreements among Republicans over who will co-chair the commission cut the meeting short.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Citizens Not Politicians said the group is “disappointed and frustrated” by the petition summary rejection, but plans to submit a third attempt. In order to submit a petition, a group must include at least 1,000 signatures from Ohio voters.
“The people of Ohio are fed up with our broken redistricting system,” the statement read. “It’s long past time to put citizens, not politicians, in charge of map drawing, require that maps be fair, and require that maps be drawn in an open and transparent process that protects voters.”
Upon receipt of the petition attempt, Yost will have 14 days to forward it to the Ohio Ballot Board or send it back for revision.