Ohioans to get more details on redistricting issue
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters will see an expanded description of a proposed redistricting amendment on fall ballots, but the issue’s backers say the language is still cumbersome.
The Ohio Ballot Board agreed in a party-line vote Thursday to new ballot language for Issue 2. The vote came a day after the panel was scolded by the state Supreme Court for approving earlier language that was incomplete and inaccurate.
At Thursday’s emergency meeting, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office proposed as a starting point new language that added paragraphs of exact phrasing from the lengthy amendment, which he and others in his party have criticized as convoluted.
Democrats and Voters First, the group behind the proposal, said that a more concise, clear summary was possible.
“What we’re struggling with on our side is we don’t want to swap misleading for confusing,” said Democratic board member Fred Strahorn.
Husted said any summary risked not pleasing the court and delaying distribution of ballots in the key battleground state.
“This language is probably belt and suspenders to make sure we cover what they want us to cover,” Husted said. He said the state has just eight days to get ballots finalized and printed.
Thursday’s turn of events followed a lawsuit filed by Voters First arguing that the Ballot Board’s original wording left out key elements of its proposal.
Its amendment creates a 12-member panel through a multistep process.
That involves an application process, the Chief Justice selecting a bipartisan group of appellate judges to winnow the field to 42, a chance for lawmakers of both parties to reject some of their choices, and then a lottery to choose the first nine commission members from three pools.
Three would be from the majority political party, three from the minority and three unaffiliated. Those nine people would select the final three panelists, again one of each party and one unaffiliated.
The amendment also calls for the commission’s records to be public and its meetings to be open, and it establishes some parameters for setting up a budget. It establishes goals for establishing the districts, adding a caveat that they must comply with existing the state and federal laws and constitutions.
The ballot language as approved last month stated the amendment would “remove the authority of elected representatives and grant new authority to appointed officials” to create the maps — a key talking point of the issue’s opponents. That language remained after Wednesday’s vote.
A previous summary describing the commission as being created “from a limited pool of applicants” — without describing how the pool would be selected — was kept, but six lengthy paragraphs plucked from the full amendment were added.
Cleveland attorney Mark Griffin, a Democrat on the board, was against the move.
“It shouldn’t require three years of law school to understand an issue,” he said. Board member and state Sen. Keith Faber, a Republican, retorted, “Let’s not be confused. The legalese is language from the actual amendment.”
The high court said earlier ballot language was flawed because it said nothing about who would do the appointing or the rules for doing it. Justices also noted that an appointment process might not be any less political than one involving elected officials.
Justices said the language could at least mention the proposed process intends to maximize the number of political balanced districts, balance those leaning toward either political party and avoid favoring or disfavoring any particular party.
Such a paragraph pulled from the actual amendment was added.