by J.D. Davidson
The GOP-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission has passed its third set of state legislative maps, a week after a court-ordered deadline and with one Republican objection.
The 4-3 commission vote means if the maps are approved by the Ohio Supreme Court, they last only four years rather than the traditional 10 that would have happened with bipartisan support on the commission.
Commission Co-Chair and House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said the new maps, which were passed late Thursday, met all the constitutional requirements established when voters created the commission and twice when the court ruled previous maps were unfairly gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.
“This was very difficult to achieve,” Cupp said. “After months trying and retrying and trying again and several court decisions refining the meaning of the terms of the constitution, the target partisan proportionality as defined by the court has been achieved by this map.”
Commission Co-Chair and Senate Minority Leader Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, expressed disappointment in what he alluded to as a secretive process to develop the maps.
“I am just disappointed, not so much for myself, but disappointed for the court and for the people of the state of Ohio, particularly as it relates to the process,” Sykes said. “I’m the sponsor of Ohio’s open meetings law, and we have some guidelines to try to make sure the people’s business that they have access to it. We’ve been told you’ve been working on this since Feb. 11, and we have not had a chance to give any input or have any knowledge about what you’re doing.”
The commission’s first maps favored the GOP by 62% in the House and nearly 70% in the Senate. The second set of maps showed 58.3% Republican-leaning legislative districts, above the court-ordered 54%.
Both were ruled unconstitutional.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said the newly passed maps create a 54-45 GOP advantage in the House and an 18-15 majority in the Senate, which he said was the same breakdown as a Democratic-presented map.
Democrats, though, disagreed. Sykes said the new map actually showed 26 House seats likely to be won by Democrats and eight in the Senate.
“Instead of proportional and fair districts, the majority has again passed maps that fail to comply with the Constitution,” House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said. “It is disappointing that majority Commissioners refuse to work together, are flagrantly ignoring Ohio voters, and continue to defy the Supreme Court of Ohio. Quite simply, this is about a supermajority maintaining power at any cost.”
Republican State Auditor Keith Faber voted against the maps, saying his issues with gerrymandering in order to move Democrats closer to the court’s percentage ordered last week continued with the new maps.
“I had concerns with this map, so to be consistent I thought those concerns with consistent with the ones I had this earlier week, so I voted against it,” Faber said. “I didn’t think I could safely believe this was constitutional in my interpretation of the constitution.”
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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.
Photo “Ohio State Capitol” by Ɱ CC BY-SA 4.0.