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Citizens Not Politicians re-submitting summary language for Ohio redistricting amendment

Maureen O'Connor speaks behind a podium.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, pictured on September 1, 2023, announced the group Citizens Not Politicians will resubmit the summary language for the proposed redistricting amendment at First Friday Club of Greater Akron.

The group proposing a constitutional amendment to take redistricting power away from politicians is resubmitting summary language for the amendment Tuesday. Ohio's attorney general rejected the group’s first attempt last month.

Voters overwhelmingly passed constitutional amendments in 2015 and 2018 to ban gerrymandering, but that effort has been deemed a failure by some, as the most recent redistricting process was mired in partisan fighting. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down state legislative maps five times, before they eventually were instated by a federal court. Now, the GOP dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission is set to begin meeting this month, with a deadline of approving final maps by September 22 already looming.

Citizens Not Politicians is resubmitting the summary language for its proposed redistricting amendment to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office on Tuesday. The group reviewed Yost’s guidance and made the necessary changes, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor with the group said.

“And we’ll see what Attorney General Yost thinks about the second edition," O'Connor said.

The amendment would create a 15-member citizen-led commission tasked with redistricting made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and five independents. Current and former politicians, party officials and lobbyists would be banned from serving on the commission.

The group is trying to "cleanse" the redistricting process, O'Connor said.

"That's what we are trying to do and will do," O'Connor said. "I think it will be very popular. I know it’s very popular with the citizens right now.”

Citizens Not Politicians wants the amendment to appear on the ballot in November 2024.

The impetus for the amendment is due to the supermajority Republicans have been enjoying in both the state House and Senate, O'Connor said. She praised Ohioans for voting no on Issue 1 in August, against lawmakers moving the threshold to pass an initiated amendment to the state constitution up from a simple majority to 60%. It also would have required that backers of an amendment to get petitions signed by 5% of voters in each of Ohio's 88 counties. That would have raised it from 44 counties.

"Going forward, I don't think that will surface again," O'Connor said, opposing State Senate President Matt Huffman who said lawmakers would "probably" ask voters to raise the amendment passage threshold in the future.

O'Connor also criticized the state's recent voting laws championed by the Republican supermajorities.

"There are some restrictions that have been placed on voting in Ohio that I think are unfortunate," O'Connor said. "I think they're racist, and I think that it's unfortunate for people of lower socioeconomic [status]."

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.