Drawing districts fairly

The first thought that crosses the mind of a politician who has just won an election is how to win the next one. The temptation to use one’s power to retain and expand it seems irresistible to human beings.

One result of that is gerrymandering, the practice of setting legislative district boundaries in a way that favors certain political parties or candidates. In Ohio, Republicans have been accused of doing that to safeguard majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. Similar accusations have been made regarding the state’s 16 congressional districts.

Now, state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, has been given a leadership role in an attempt to end gerrymandering. Cera has been named to a four-person panel of legislators who are to recommend a fair method of setting congressional district boundaries. The other members are state Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, and state Sens. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, and Matt Huffman, R-Lima.

Recommendations from the group to the General Assembly are expected later this year.

Anyone who has watched attempts for many years to eliminate gerrymandering may be tempted to wish Cera lots of luck. He and the other three panel members will need it.

Not that it’s impossible to get politics out of the redistricting formula. A variety of suggestions to that end have been made. But once the panel makes its recommendations, the full General Assembly will have its way with them. Rest assured there will be schemes aplenty to adopt a new system that is slanted toward one party — and both Democrats and Republicans will be part of that process.

In commenting on his appointment, Cera offered good advice to all Buckeye State lawmakers: “We need to put our political differences aside and do right by those who sent us here.”

Ohioans should insist on it. They should demand the process of crafting a new redistricting formula be conducted out in the open, and that the plan be written in plain, transparent language. There is no reason residents cannot have congressional districts drawn fairly — no reason except for politics.

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