A “huge deal.” That is how one leader of the Fair Districts=Fair Elections coalition described the compromise on legislation to repair the way the state redraws U.S. House districts. The words hit the mark. If Ohio voters approve in May, the state will have a process to deliver more competitive districts, candidates, thus, tugged to the center, improving the prospects for real governing once in office.
Redistricting reform is not the answer to all of the ills of polarization. It will help. So the involved Republicans and Democrats at the Statehouse deserve applause for sticking through difficult negotiations to get the result. Perhaps most decisive was the presence at the table of Fair Districts=Fair Elections, having already collected two-thirds of the signatures required to get its redistricting plan on the November ballot.
That plan essentially mirrored the proposal voters approved in 2015 to fix the redrawing of state legislative districts. It isn’t hard to imagine voters saying yes again. The energy and work of Fair Districts=Fair Elections spurred Republican majorities otherwise resistant to moving forward and determined, especially, to maintain a leading legislative role in congressional redistricting.
Ideally, the Fair Districts=Fair Elections proposal would become the law. It is less complicated and better designed to deliver the necessary competitive districts. But this is about high-stakes politics. The Republican majorities had their own leverage. Experience says that success at the ballot with a redistricting proposal requires both political parties on board. Fair Districts=Fair Elections could have faced well-funded opposition, stirring doubt and dimming its prospects.