The Ohio Senate this week is considering a measure recently passed in the House that would change the way the state's legislative districts are drawn every 10 years.
The Senate passed its own version of a redistricting plan last year. If a compromise version can pass both chambers by Aug. 4, a constitutional amendment will appear on the November ballot. Voters must approve any change in the redistricting process since it's a change to the state's constitution.
State Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta, co-sponsor of the House bill, said she's hopeful the measure could be on its way toward those steps this week. The House bill's sponsor in the Senate is currently working with the House to craft a compromise, she said.
"Stay tuned. This might be a good week for reapportionment," Garrison said.
Earlier this year, it appeared any change to the state's legislative mapping process would not come for another 10 years, thanks to a gridlock in state politics. The state redraws its legislative districts after every census to account for population shifts.
Late last week, the Ohio House approved the reapportionment measure sponsored by Garrison and Ohio Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren. The bill passed by a 69-28 vote, with many Republicans breaking party lines to help seal the measure's approval.
Garrison's proposal would replace the current process with a mathematical formula and an Apportionment Board that will oversee redistricting in the state. It also would only address redistricting in the Ohio House and Senate, but not the state's congressional districts.
"The House version is a version that is a mathematical formula and considers representational fairness and political competitiveness, keeping municipalities and counties together," she said.
In those ways it is different than the proposal introduced by Garrison's former opponent in the race for Ohio Secretary of State. Sen. Jon Husted's proposal would set up a seven-member commission to draw up new state legislative and congressional districts. The commission would be comprised of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, House speaker, Senate president and House and Senate minority leaders. Before any plan is put in place, five members would have to agree to it.
"One of the parts of Sen. Husted's Senate resolution that we can agree on is his resolution would require two people from the minority party on the Apportionment Board to agree (on the redistricting plan)," Garrison said. "There is agreement that the formula (in my bill) can work with some changes (the Senate) wants to make."
Husted said this issue has been a priority for him for the last six years and he has been working diligently to find a solution.
"I hope to merge the finer points of the House bill with the important points of the Senate bill and hopefully build some compromise so we can get this done in the next few days," he said.
Husted's opponent in the Secretary of State race - after Garrison dropped out earlier this year - Democrat Maryellen O'Shaughnessy praised the House for passing the redistricting bill.
O'Shaughnessy prefers the House bill to the Senate version because, she said in a release, the measure increases transparency and citizen participation in the process while taking partisanship out.
"The current reapportionment bill before the Senate falls short of these goals and does not represent real reform," she said.
Under the current system, the political party that holds three seats on the five-member State Apportionment Board controls the way legislative districts are drawn. The board is comprised of a General Assembly member from each party, the governor, secretary of state and auditor. Therefore, whichever party wins two of those statewide posts this year would control the board.
Critics say this leads to gerrymandering, when district lines are drawn to favor certain candidates or parties. This can result in oddly shaped districts that sometimes differ greatly from other established governmental boundaries.