Month: April 2017

Signatures filed Ohio redistricting

The Columbus Dispatch — A trio of nonprofits filed an initial batch of 1,000 signatures Monday to kick-off an effort to place congressional redistricting reform on the November 2017 or 2018 ballot.

The proposed ballot issue would closely follow a legislative redistricting proposal that voters overwhelmingly supported in 2015. The goal is to dampen the political gerrymandering that allows the political party in control to draw districts to its benefit, creating few competitive seats and securing the party’s majority status.

“This is a critical effort to ensure fair districts and fair elections for every congressional seat in Ohio,” said Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “When members of Congress have safe seats drawn to guarantee which party wins, the real losers are the voters.”

Republicans have held 12 of Ohio’s 16 congressional seats since they drew the district lines in 2011. The lines will be drawn again in 2021, after the next Census.

As part of the Fair Districts Ohio coalition, Common Cause Ohio and the Ohio Environmental Council joined the League in filing the signatures. Within 10 days, Attorney General Mike DeWine will determine if the summary language is fair and truthful. If it checks out, it goes to the Ohio Ballot Board, which will decide if it is a single issue, and then the group begins collecting more than 300,000 valid signatures of Ohio registered voters.

When lawmakers approved placing legislative redistricting reform on the ballot in 2015, they specifically declined to change the process for congressional districts, which are drawn by the legislature in a bill signed by the governor.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, has said he is working on a congressional redistricting plan, and a bill was introduced in the Senate that would require a two-thirds vote from each legislative chamber to approve a new map. The Senate proposal, like one last session, has seen little action. Gov. John Kasich proposed including a redistricting proposal in the state budget, but relented when legislative leaders ask to consider the issue separately.

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Michigan Redistricting Reform Topic of Forum — State Rep. Yousef Rabhi argues Michigan lawmakers should not be the ones deciding the boundaries of their own political districts, as that opens the door to gerrymandering to gain partisan advantage.

The Ann Arbor Democrat argues the state’s congressional and state legislative districts should be drawn up by a nonpartisan group of people who are truly independent from the state Legislature and are not eligible to run for office anytime soon and haven’t been in office anytime recently.

“I strongly believe that voters should pick their representatives, not the other way around, so a fair redistricting system is essential,” Rabhi argues.

Rabhi is inviting residents who want to learn more about Michigan’s current system and thoughts about redistricting reform to a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, April 24, at the downtown Ann Arbor library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.

“This is the critical issue of our time, in my opinion, that will transform the way that politics are done in Michigan particularly,” Rabhi said. “In some states, it doesn’t have as big of an impact because some states had the foresight in adopting a process that removed this particular issue from the hands of politicians in the legislature and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan, independent committee. And that independence, I think, is the most important part.”

Monday night’s forum is being hosted by Rabhi and includes a panel discussion featuring former Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz, former Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer and Daniel Rubenstein of the League of Women Voters. The event is free and open to the public.

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Redistricting reform faces Delaware House vote

Dover Post — A plan to change how the state sets the borders for legislative districts has attracted bipartisan support in the upper chamber of the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 27 seeks to overhaul General Assembly redistricting by taking it out of the hands of the legislature, sponsor Sen. Bryan Townsend said.

Instead, an independent commission would redraw voting maps without reference to politics. The Democrat of Newark said the idea is to create an unbiased and transparent method of setting boundaries. The legislation proposes a nine-member nonpartisan commission.

“We’ve seen gerrymandering across the country and it’s becoming a huge issue on both sides of the aisle,” Townsend said. “Courts around the country are starting to overrule legislatively drawn districts.” In many states, congressional districts are gerrymandered by the party in power, but the bill would not apply to Delaware’s single district; its single House of Representatives member is elected at large.

The Issue and The Impact

Almost since the founding of the republic, politicians have attempted to ensure survival in office by changing election districts to favor themselves. their own party, or to lock out the opposition.

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Pennsylvania’s Cumberland County

The Sentinel — The Cumberland County Commissioners are again trying to get the political weight of Pennsylvania’s county-level governments behind redistricting reform.

The commissioners adopted a resolution Monday endorsing the idea of a nonpartisan citizens’ commission to redraw the state’s legislative boundaries, and requesting the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania to adopt the same.

“This is reaffirming our support for a constitutional amendment for an independent citizens’ commission to redraw district lines,” Commissioner Jim Hertzler said.

 The previous iteration of the proposal came within two votes of being formally adopted by CCAP, Hertzler said.

The idea of an independent redistricting body is an alternative to the current system, which has been widely criticized. Pennsylvania’s constitution specifies that redistricting be performed by a legislative commission, consisting of appointees of the state’s House and Senate majority leaders.

Those four members then select a fifth member, who may be picked by the state Supreme Court in case of a deadlock.

A close-up view of redistricting

Denton Record Chronicle — Dione Harbour has to be careful when she opens the front door to her east Denton home. Her small dog Max Jr. has been known to duck past her legs, bolt across Mockingbird Lane and end up in a neighbor’s yard.

What Harbour (and certainly Max Jr.) didn’t know is when the dog crosses Mockingbird, he also crosses a boundary line that splits the neighborhood into different state Senate and City Council voting districts.

“That’s bizarre,” Harbour said when she found out  her neighbors across the street have a different state senator and City Council member than she does.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, represents Harbour and her neighbors on the east side of Mockingbird Lane in District 12. Keely Briggs represents them in District 2 on the City Council.

Across the street, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, represents the neighbors on the west side of Mockingbird in District 30. Kevin Roden represents them in Denton’s District 1.

Mockingbird Lane is a symbol of an arcane political science called reapportionment, or redistricting. Every 10 years, politicians in Austin convene to draw new boundaries for congressional districts, state Senate and state House districts. Put a microscope on Mockingbird, and you can learn a lot more about why we vote at a certain location and for certain candidates.

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