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Ohio Ballot Board greenlights redistricting proposal for signature-gathering, again

Ohio Ballot Board Chair and Secretary of State Frank LaRose swears in Democratic appointment Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) in November 2023.
Sarah Donaldson
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Ballot Board Chair and Secretary of State Frank LaRose swears in Democratic appointment Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) in November 2023.

After a clerical error forced Citizens Not Politicians to redo part of the initiated constitutional amendment process, the coalition proposing an overhaul of how the state handles drawing districts for lawmakers cleared the Ohio Ballot Board on Monday—for the second time.

Both Attorney General Dave Yost and the ballot board had already greenlit the campaign’s initiated petition when discovery of an incorrect date forced them to resubmit it in its entirety. But Chris Davey, spokesperson for Citizens Not Politicians, said the delay wasn’t a big setback.

“We've used this time to continue to organize our volunteers and get all of the necessary paperwork in place and organizational structure in place,” Davey said in an interview after the vote.

Still, the coalition missed signature-gathering on Election Day. But volunteers are now able to fan out across the state, Davey said.

Monday’s unanimous vote closely mimicked the GOP-majority board’s brief October meeting, when it voted unanimously to allow the proposal to eventually appear as a single issue on the ballot—rather than dividing it. That would have required the coalition Citizens Not Politicians to gather at least double the number of necessary petition signatures.

The amendment would throw out the current redistricting process, in which elected officials on the Ohio Redistricting Commission draw the district maps for congressional and Ohio General Assembly races. The Ohio Redistricting Commission has seven members, including the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and four legislative appointees—currently five Republicans and two Democrats.

Under Citizens Not Politicians’ proposal, the state would establish an independent commission of 15 members: five Republicans, five Democrats and five independents.

The intention is to get “everyday people who are going to fairly draw lines," said Jen Miller, the state’s League of Women Voters executive director.

The push to overhaul the process comes after years of conflict over redistricting in a state where one party dominates the political schema. In 2022, the state’s highest court rejected five attempts at ORC-drawn maps, all of which gave Republicans a legislative supermajority. The current Ohio House and Senate maps, adopted in late September, heavily favor Republicans.

Citizens Not Politicians now has to gather more than 413,000 valid signatures by early July to get on the 2024 general election ballot.

The ballot board also has a new face.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who chairs the board, swore in Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland). The House Democratic caucus appointed Upchurch to what was formerly Rep. Elliot Forhan’s (D-South Euclid) seat, after Forhan was booted from his committee assignments following allegations of hostile behavior toward his colleagues and constituents.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.