Proposed changes in how Ohio draws its congressional districts that drew a unanimous state Senate vote Monday and easily passed the Ohio House today bring two sayings to mind: "Politics is the art of the possible," and "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
Senate Joint Resolution 5 gives neither the Statehouse's Republican majority nor its Democratic minority all either wanted -- and it's far from a perfect redistricting solution. But it turns out that what was politically possible to get by working together was a lot.
The plan promises far fairer redistricting in Ohio and greatly limited latitude for political hanky-panky by either party. The redistricting plan next heads to the May 8 Ohio primary ballot, where Ohio voters will get the final say.
True, a separate Fair Districts = Fair Elections citizens' redistricting reform effort that's been gathering signatures for the November ballot might have brought starker change. But the Ohio legislature would never have acted if it weren't for the citizen effort.
And after an unpromising start as a blatantly skewed GOP scheme to perpetuate gerrymandering in Ohio -- a plan our editorial board said "belongs in a Statehouse wastebasket" - the legislative plan now shows the importance of bipartisan compromise on redistricting reform.
And while not ending the General Assembly's influence on redistricting or offering ironclad guarantees against gerrymandering, the proposal significantly weakens the partisan hold on the process.
As one change, the plan would make it impossible to split large counties more than three ways (Cuyahoga and Summit counties now are sliced among four congressional districts). It also offers other safeguards against partisan maneuvers that Ohio's current highly partisan process doesn't offer.
Redistricting has been so grossly distorted in Ohio that a state that gave Donald Trump about 52 percent of its presidential vote has a U.S. House delegation that's 75 percent Republican.
SJR 5 would require the party that has the General Assembly majority to woo at least half the legislative minority's votes in order to redraw districts for a full ten years between federal censuses.
If that initial process doesn't yield a successful redistricting plan, SJR 5 would give the Ohio Redistricting Commission the power to craft a plan; and if the commission can't manage that by a specific deadline, one-third of the legislature's minority party votes would be needed for a successful plan.
These voting requirements in themselves are not sufficient protection against gerrymandering, but the plan's specific safeguards against slicing and dicing communities and counties, and some related protections against purely political shenanigans, give this proposal credibility.
Republicans had more than enough votes in the Ohio legislature this session to propose a redistricting reform plan without the votes of a single Democratic lawmaker.
But they knew such a plan would fail at the ballot -- and that Fair Districts Ohio was gathering signatures for a November ballot issue that voters likely would accept.
Those stark facts seemingly jolted Republican leaders into good-faith bargaining, knowing that once power's lost at the Statehouse, it's tough to reclaim.
A Fair Districts = Fair Elections leader, Heather Taylor-Miesle of the Ohio Environmental Council, said on Twitter Monday that the coalition "is supportive of the new SJR 5 [because] it keeps communities together, requires a bipartisan process, & does not allow map drawers to favor one party or the other. Plus requires written justification when there is no real minority support. Hard deal but a good one."
It is a "hard deal but a good one." In the end, the lawmakers from both parties who crafted SJR 5 put aside toxic partisan self-interest to serve Ohioans' interests. And that's worth celebrating.