These are frustrating days for Jim Slagle. Earlier this year, the head of the non-profit Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting had taken on a tough cause: trying to get Ohio’s legislators to act their age when it comes to creating a plan to divide the state into 16 new congressional slices.
But by the time Republicans quickly unveiled and passed their plan for district dominance earlier this month, Slagle’s message had been drowned out by all the chest-bumping.
Slagle’s plan — better known as “Draw the Line Ohio” — was to spark a fever for redistricting reform by allowing taxpayers to nerd-out on the process in the comfort of their own homes.
Using a computer program, armchair planners could submit their own plans to reorganize the state into 16 districts. The plans were then judged by a mathematical formula that weighed nonpartisan factors such as which plans maintained county lines and competitiveness between the parties in each district. Fifty-three plans were submitted to the group, which presented the best eight to the legislature, which promptly blew them all off.
“I think what we’re seeing is really some of our worst fears in terms of process and also substance, which really demonstrates why we really need to reform this process,” Slagle says. “We were hopeful that with the citizen input and participation, and our ability to provide some alternatives in the congressional redistricting, they’d look at those more seriously. But what we’re seeing is more extreme partisan redistricting than what we’ve seen in the past.”
For the sake of comparison, Slagle cranked lawmakers’ chosen proposal through his redistricting robot. Naturally, it came in dead last compared to the 53 amateur submissions.
“Their score was less than half of the lowest score we had,” he says.