Fairness in elections is a priority

It’s easy to be magnanimous when you have all the power and will be in control for the foreseeable future. Which is why the Republican majority in the Ohio General Assembly should have to prove that it is truly committed to fair congressional and state legislative elections.

How would the GOP do that? By publicly agreeing to apply as soon as possible the new method of creating districts that was unanimously adopted by the Senate.

The bipartisan vote Senate just before the General Assembly broke for the Christmas holidays was a victory for Ohioans who find the current system flawed and unfair.

The Republican controlled House is expected to take up the measure next year.

If the resolution makes it through the Legislature, the new method of drawing the lines would be put up for a vote of the people.

Proponents believe that simplicity and the fact that the minority party would have a significant role to play are selling points.

The resolution passed by the Senate would create a seven-member commission to draw all maps, and at least one minority party member would have to approve the boundaries, according to the Akron Beacon-Journal.

A special task force developed the redistricting plan. The panel was appointed in response to the controversy last year over the way the GOP majority in the Legislature and the Republican dominated apportionment board created the congressional and legislative districts.

Every objective analysis of the districts concluded that the Republicans went to extremes to ensure that their majorities in the House and Senate and their control of the congressional delegation would last beyond the next population census in 2020.

Their heavy-handed approach to redistricting prompted various grass roots organizations dedicated to free and fair elections, including the League of Women Voters, and the Ohio Democratic Party, which would be left out in the cold for years to come, to push a constitutional amendment last November to revise the way the state’s congressional districts are apportioned.

It was a complicated issue, which resulted in Ohio’s voters rejecting it by a significant margin.

Now, however, the Republicans are advocating a plan that “draws clear, bright lines about redistricting,” according to state Sen. Tom Sawyer.

But since the devil is in the details, here’s one detail that demands a clear answer: When would the new method of creating congressional and legislative districts go into effect?

Population census

After every decennial national population census, the General Assembly and the apportionment board meet to draw the new boundaries. Although there are federal guidelines that must be followed to preserve the voting rights of minorities, it’s easy to manipulate the system — as the Republicans in Columbus have done.

Thus, if the GOP is truly committed to fair elections, it will ensure that the new method goes into effect after the U.S. Census Bureau comes up with adjusted population data in the next several years. It can do so by inserting language in the ballot measure than would require new maps to be drawn within a year and then immediately applied to elections.

Otherwise, it will be 10-plus years before the Republicans put the power they grabbed through the redistricting process on the line.

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