by J.D. Davidson
The new Ohio Redistricting Commission, facing an Oct. 31 deadline to redraw the state’s congressional district maps, is receiving the same criticism from Democratic lawmakers as it did during the state legislative map-drawing process.
House Democratic leaders have called on Republican members of the commission to release draft maps so the commission can work toward an agreement before the Oct. 31 deadline. The commission, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, must reach a unanimous decision for maps to last 10 years.
“If we’re to take Republicans at their word that they want a 10-year map, they should call a meeting of the Commission and introduce the maps they’ve been working on for weeks,” Rep. Kristin Boggs, D-Columbus, said. “Otherwise, we’re left to believe they want to run the clock out again and pass another short-term, gerrymandered map that fails to live up to the letter of the law.”
Commission co-chair Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, called for more public hearings, while Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose called for a commission meeting earlier this month. The commission, however, has not met since the state Legislature failed to produce maps by the end of September.
That missed deadline pushed congressional maps to the redistricting commission, which earlier did not reach a unanimous decision on 10-year state legislative maps, which now will have to be redrawn in four years.
“We’re calling not only for a commission meeting, but for Republicans to come ready to introduce the draft maps they’ve been working on for weeks so we can begin to work collectively to deliver fair maps,” Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, said. “If the Commission fails to act and cedes responsibility back to the Legislature, I fear we may be on a course for a four-year map, which may be what Republicans intended all along.”
The commission has until Oct. 31 to pass a bipartisan, 10-year map before the responsibility for drawing maps shifts back to the General Assembly. The Legislature can then pass a bipartisan 10-year map or a short-term map.
Ohio voters created the Ohio Redistricting Commission in 2018. It consists of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and appointments from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. This is the first time redistricting has been done in Ohio using the system.
Groups such as the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Democratic Redistricting Commission and the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed lawsuits over the state legislative maps, claiming they are unconstitutional and gerrymandered. The Ohio Supreme Court has jurisdiction over lawsuits that challenge redistricting.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.