Redistricting commission hears Dem, Rep map proposals

·2 min read

Jan. 23—The Ohio Redistricting Commission reconvened at 3:15 on Saturday afternoon to air Democratic and Republican proposals for new state House and Senate districts.

Commissioners and staff worked behind closed doors from Thursday evening, repeatedly announcing and postponing public sessions.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, commission co-chair, said both parties' proposals would be heard, followed by questions.

"This is what we, Sen. Sykes and I, agreed to," Cupp said. State Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, is the other co-chair of the seven-member commission.

Cupp said there would then be a 15-minute recess followed by "further action."

The Republican plan shows 42 Democratic-leaning House districts and 57 Republican-leaning districts, 13 Democratic-leaning Senate districts and 20 Republican-leaning districts, according to a summary handout.

The Democratic plan shows 45 Democratic-leaning House districts and 54 Republican-leaning districts, 15 Democratic-leaning Senate seats and 18 Republican-leaning ones.

Currently Democrats hold 34 of the House's 99 seats and eight of the 33 Senate seats.

In both plans, some Democratic-leaning seats do so by less than 2%, while no Republican-leaning seats are as closely split. In the Democratic plan, five Democratic-leaning House and two Senate districts are within 2%, while in the Republican plan 12 Democratic-leaning House and four Senate seats are within that margin, according to summary handouts.

In September, the redistricting commission voted 5-2 along party lines to approve House and Senate maps that would likely have preserved the Republican supermajority in both houses of the General Assembly. Several progressive and voting-rights groups immediately sued, and on Jan. 12 the Ohio Supreme Court overturned those maps and gave the commission 10 days to approve new ones.

Commissioners have been working under an assumed deadline of midnight Saturday to approve new maps.

Central to the court's ruling was the need for proportionality: for the likely partisan makeup of the map to resemble the 54% Republican-46% Democratic proportion Ohioans have voted in recent statewide elections.

Once the commission approves new maps, three days are allotted to file any new objections. The Supreme Court retains jurisdiction over the new maps. If any more objections are made, only a week would remain to resolve them before the Feb. 2 filing deadline for state legislative seats.

If the commission, which consists of five Republicans and two Democrats, approves maps without minority-party support as it did in September, the process must be redone in four years, even if there are no further court challenges. Maps accepted by both parties will last until the next decennial census.