Voters across the Chagrin Valley and Ohio have an opportunity to get rid of the oddly shaped congressional districts around the state and take a step toward creating districts in a balanced and fair way.

That opportunity is through Issue 1 on the May 8 primary ballot. The proposal was overwhelmingly approved by Ohio lawmakers who sent the issue to voters for the final OK.

This is a major step by the General Assembly that would result in giving more power to Ohioans when they go to the ballot box. We fully endorse Issue 1.

This issue directly addresses the longtime practice of gerrymandering that has been embraced by both Republicans and Democrats for years not only in Ohio but also across the U.S.

This manipulation of political boundaries has divided counties, cities and regions creating in some instances congressional districts that are politically skewed beyond logic. The result often gives the majority party a disproportionate number of seats that does not accurately represent the populations. The practice has become even more extreme in recent years with the use of computer-aided mapping.

This ballot issue still grants the power to draw congressional districts to the Ohio House and Senate. The difference is that the measure would amend the state constitution to encourage bipartisan consensus and more logically keep communities together.

Under the current law, new maps only need a simple majority in the General Assembly for approval. Issue 1 would change that to a three-fifths majority in both the Ohio House and Senate with at least 50 percent approval by the minority party. As before, these mapped districts would be based on a new U.S. census and redrawn with the next census 10 years later. Partisanship remains in this proposal, which gives the party in power the first chance to draw the districts.

If the required votes cannot be garnered, a bipartisan redistricting commission created in 2015 for statehouse boundary drawing then gets to establish the map. This map then must get approval of at least two of the minority members on the commission.

If that process fails, the legislature gets another chance to get the job done. One-third of minority members must approve the map for it to be in effect for 10 years. A map passed only by a simple majority is only good for four years, under the ballot proposal.

Issue 1 would change what has happened in the past. After the 2010 census, the GOP-dominated General Assembly drew districts that resulted in elections that left Republicans in the majority with 12 GOP and four Democrats elected in the 16 Ohio districts.

Democrats did the same thing when they were in the majority after the 1980 and 1990 censuses.

But the political climate is changing. Federal and state courts around the U.S. are starting to demand that states create districts that are not skewed by partisanship.

Though the proposal is an improvement over the current system, U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, stated that redistricting by an outside commission rather than the General Assembly would have been a better idea. But she supports the measure because it would bring improvements.

U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, said his district already is balanced, but there may be a need for change elsewhere in Ohio.

He called having four representatives for one county, like the current maps in Cuyahoga and Summit counties, “a wonderful thing.” And he hasn’t heard people complaining about representation under the current system.

But we see Issue 1 as a fairer way to create districts. It hands over decision-making to where it belongs – with voters.

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