Every ten years, the ruling political party sets about redrawing congressional districts, a detailed process that amounts to spreading a map of Ohio on a table and rolling over it with a pizza cutter. The point is to give your team the upper hand in upcoming elections. And although the cherished pastime probably won’t be going away soon, one Ohio group hopes to spark redistricting reform by hosting a little competition.
The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting will hold a contest this summer inviting anyone to use 2010 census data to redraw the districts. Their goal is to shave the politics off the process and illustrate that redistricting can be approached straight-up, without the partisan chaser.
“This demonstrates that you can use fair and objective criteria,” says Jim Slagle, the campaign’s manager. “We would like to plant the seeds for future reform.”
The project mirrors a similar contest held in 2009. Submitted plans will be judged by a computer formula that weighs whether a proposal preserves county lines, its compactness, its competitiveness based on partisan makeup, and whether a district’s representation matches its balance between Blue and Red. The winner will be submitted to the legislature for consideration.
“This is not to be critical of the people that have political power now,” says Slagle. “When the Democrats were in, they did the same thing. The problem is the way our current system is set up, and that’s not good for the public.”
The contest kicks off this summer, but one early bird is already all over it. Congressman Dennis Kucinich sent in his proposal last week: a map of Cuyahoga County with “Mine” scrawled over it in crayon.