New survey results on redistricting reform in Ohio

The Reform Institute released some interesting and helpful survey data today; they conducted a survey of Ohio voters in early January, asking them a number of questions about redistricting reform. This survey, and the earlier survey data that I wrote about from the JEHT Foundation, provide some insight into public support for redistricting reform in Ohio, and public perceptions of the need for more competitive elections.

Below is a long quotation from the press release from the Reform Institute. I’ve also put a pdf file containing more information from the poll here.

Ohio Voters Want Competitive Elections

Redistricting Reform Critical to Restoring Competition

ALEXANDRIA, VA – In response to oral arguments heard today by the Supreme Court in the Texas redistricting lawsuit that challenges partisan gerrymandering by incumbents, the Reform Institute released the following poll.

The Tarrance Group poll, conducted for the Reform Institute, shows that that 70 percent of Ohio voters support either the idea of “balance” or “competition” in congressional and legislative races. The poll also showed over 50 percent of voters from different political parties (Republican, Democrat, non-affiliated), as well as different self-identified ideological positions (conservative, moderate, liberal) support more competition in elections instead of keeping things the way they are.

While the overwhelming majority of Ohio voters support competitive elections – the leading principle behind redistricting reform – the poll shows 49 percent plurality of voters are opposed to redistricting before the next census. The Court’s ruling could fundamentally change the way district lines are drawn by making partisan gerrymandering and mid-decade redistricting unconstitutional.

“Partisan gerrymandering, a common redistricting practice, has led to the decline in competitive elections,” said Cecilia Martinez, Reform Institute Executive Director. “Ensuring transparency and accountability in the way district lines are drawn will help to restore public confidence in what has been a consistently partisan process. “

Martinez added, “As the poll shows, mid-decade redistricting increases suspicion that these proposals are designed for the short-term advantage of one party as much as for the long-term health of the system. Reformers must learn the lessons that came out of Ohio before the next push to pass meaningful redistricting reform can be successful.”

In November 2005 an Ohio initiative creating an independent redistricting commission was defeated by a staggering 70 percent to 30 percent.

The poll was commissioned by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Reform Institute, which serves as a unique, independent voice working to strengthen the foundations of our democracy. In addition to the Ohio poll, the Institute filed a “friend of the court brief” in the Texas redistricting lawsuit. The brief urges the U.S. Supreme Court to end partisan gerrymandering, which weakens congressional responsiveness and accountability and has reshaped the House of Representatives into a body that is largely unrepresentative of the people – both demographically and politically.

The poll, conducted by the Tarrance Group, surveyed 807 likely Ohio voters between January 4-5 and 8, 2006. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

There is much here for those interested in redistricting reform to ponder, especially in California where Senator Lowenthal’s SCA3 bill has been recently amended and is still moving through the legislative process. This bill is now scheduled for a hearing before the California Senate Election Committee on March 15, 9:30am, in Sacramento at the State Capitol (Room 3191).