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Amendment aimed at reforming Ohio’s troubled political mapmaking system edges toward 2024 ballot

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A proposed amendment that would remake Ohio’s troubled political mapmaking system, which repeatedly failed last year to produce maps that could pass constitutional muster, edged closer to the 2024 ballot on Monday.

Republican state Attorney General Dave Yost’s certification of summary petition language for the constitutional amendment submitted by the group Citizens Not Politicians sends the issue to the Ohio Ballot Board. His finding that the wording is fair and truthful followed two previous rejections.

Citizens Not Politicians said it was pleased to have cleared the hurdle.

“Ohioans are very receptive to our nonpartisan plan to replace politicians with citizens on a reformed redistricting commission in a transparent redistricting process,” the group said in a statement, “and to require that all congressional and legislative maps be fair to voters.”

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The measure calls for replacing the Ohio Redistricting Commission, currently comprised of three statewide officeholders and four state lawmakers, with an independent body selected directly by citizens.

The 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission would include Republicans, Democrats and independents and represent a mix of the state’s geographic and demographic traits.

The amendment would bar current and former politicians, political party officials, lobbyists and particularly generous political donors from sitting on the new commission.

To assure maps are fair and impartial, districts would be precluded from discriminating against or favoring either a political party or an individual politician.

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The effort follows the repeated failure of officials under the existing structure to produce constitutional maps last year. Courts rejected two congressional maps and five sets of Statehouse maps as gerrymandered.

Amid the court disputes, Ohio’s elections were allowed to proceed last year under the flawed maps. Since then, voting rights advocates have dropped their legal dispute against the congressional map — which is only good through 2024 — and a bipartisan vote has put in place a new set of Statehouse boundaries.

Reformers behind the 2024 ballot initiative include former Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who cast a series of key swing votes in cases deeming the maps unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor her own Republican party.

Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said her organization “enthusiastically supports” the proposed amendment and looks forward to offering volunteer support to gather signatures.