Columbus Fair Elections Plan Provisions for Steering Committee Input

Council Districts Input

We are seeking input and comment into several of the provisions of the Columbus Fair Elections Plan. The goal of the plan is to create elections that are more fair and competitive, and a council that is more representative and responsive to the people of Columbus.
  • In May 2017, voters approved the council's proposal to have members nominated from each one of 9 districts (districts yet to be created), though each member will be voted on at-large. We propose 9 council districts, though each member would be elected by the voters within their district. Although we have previously supported a 13 member council with 3 seats at-large and 10 seats by district, we propose here 9 members elected by district because the Charter Review Committee had proposed 9 as a "best practice," the city had not opposed that number, and voters had approved it in the May 2017 election. In this way we seek to narrow the differences and avoid attacks that our proposal would add to the cost of governance. Based on past experience, we expect the argument in opposition to be that without at-large elections there will be ward fighting and nothing will get done. Please indicate your level of support for our provisions.
  • Please feel free to provide more ideas, input or comments about the proposed size and structure of council:
  • The current charter calls for the district elections to start in 2023 (after the 2020 census is released and maps can be drawn with new data). We have drawn a 9 district map in our proposal, and propose for district elections in the 2021 election. Our 9 district map would then be re-drawn for the 2023 elections using the new 2020 census data. Our proposal would shorten the terms of members elected in the 2019 election and require all incumbents to run for a district seat in 2021. Based on experience, an attack might be that this is too soon, and that our map was drawn "in secret by a small group of people," and that it would shorten terms voters approved in the 2019 elections. Please indicate your level of support for the proposal:
  • Please feel free to provide more ideas, input or comments about the proposed transition to districts:
  • The council currently selects itself: 36 of the last 41 members were appointed to office before being on the ballot. They run as incumbents with full party and business funding support before ever getting voter support. Council's approach to that dysfunction was simply to add a public meeting before the appointment. Our reform ensures that vacancies are filled by the people being represented (in that district with the vacancy). We have each of the Neighborhood Area Commissions (city neighborhood-based recommending bodies ) that have population in the District with the vacancy (so-called "District Nominating Entities"), by population-based weighted voting nominate a consensus candidate to council from among the applicants. If council appoints someone other than the neighborhood-voted consensus nominee, the council appointee is prohibited from serving in the term subsequent to the appointment and is disqualified from appearing on the ballot. If the counsel appoints the district nominee, that person can run in the next election and serve in the next term. An argument in opposition to this method could be that the weighted voting methodology is complicated and would be relatively hard to explain the details of -in the context of an election process. We note that people often vote against what they don't understand. Please indicate your level of support for this provision.
  • Feel free to provide additional input/comments regarding the mid-term vacancy appointment process.
  • The charter has no provisions for term limits. Our proposal creates a 12 year term limit for consecutive service (the clock resets after 1 year off council). Looking historically, few members have crossed the 12 year threshold ... this is primarily to avoid a charge that neighborhood fiefdoms would develop. (The provision is not directed at any current member, although we note that councilwoman Tyson would exceed the 12 years in her current term). Please indicate your level of support for the provision.
  • Feel free to provide additional input/comments regarding the term limit provision.
  • The current charter (taking effect in 2023) calls for a 5 member districting commission comprised only of Columbus electors to change boundaries after every decennial census. Our proposal creates a 7 member commission, 5 of which (including the chair) must be Columbus electors Further, no more than 3 members can be of the same political party (as defined by Board of Election registrations). Please indicate your level of support for this provision.
  • Feel free to provide additional input/comments regarding the Districting Commission Membership provision.
  • The current charter (taking effect in 2023) calls for the largest and smallest districts to be within 1 percent population of each other. We propose a maximum 5% variance between the largest and smallest districts. We also prohibit the consideration of any person's address when drawing district boundaries. 5% has been validated in courts as appropriate, and allows flexibility for Columbus's jagged boundaries and neighborhoods, as well as helps in the creation of majority-minority districts. Please indicate your level of support for this provision.
  • Feel free to provide additional input/comments regarding the Districting Criteria provision.
  • The current charter (taking effect in 2023) calls for the districting commission to submit 3 proposals to council and for council to select one. We propose that the Commission, after public review and comment, selects the final districting proposal and sends it to council for adoption. An argument in opposition would be that we are allowing unaccountable people (not elected officials) to make decisions. Please indicate your level of support for this provision.
  • Feel free to provide additional input/comments regarding the adoption of a districting plan provision.
  • The current charter requires 1,000 nominating petition signatures from Columbus electors for a candidate's name to appear on the ballot. We believe 1,000 signatures, gathered in the middle of winter, is prohibitive for independent candidates, elevates partisan candidates, and is unnecessarily anti-competition. We note it takes just 50 signatures to run for Ohio House of Representatives. We propose 75 signatures of electors residing in the district for candidates elected by district. Please indicate your level of support for this provision.
  • Feel free to provide additional input/comments regarding the nomination of candidates provision.