Deja vu: Republicans use simple majority to pass 4-year cards
After two more days of discussion and debate, the GOP majority on the Ohio Redistricting Commission passed four-year legislative maps Saturday night by a simple 5-2 majority, setting the timetable for potential objections and judicial review.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission meeting proceeded Saturday evening after a recess Thursday and did not meet again until 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
During the Saturday afternoon session, Republicans and Democrats presented separate cards, although the committee’s Democratic co-chair, State Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, said the purpose of the he effort of the Democratic caucus was not to present separate cards so much as it was an exercise in proving that proportional representation constitutionally could be done.
It became clear as the day went on that disagreement still threatened the process. House Speaker Bob Cupp said even in the final hour of committee time on Saturday, when they retired to discuss each plan, the co-chairs were debating whether it was worth the effort. to continue negotiations or to try to modify the maps.
“A majority of the commission felt it was right, although it might have been a good thing, that it was not possible to do it,” Cupp said.
Earlier in the day, the Democratic co-chairman said his caucus members were still operating on the idea that agreement and shared respect for the constitution were at the end of the redistricting tunnel.
“It wasn’t until a day or two ago that I was told there was a feeling we couldn’t meet the proportionality requirements,” Sykes said.
The Ohio Supreme Court told the commission it must come back with a map that complies with Section 6 of the constitution, the part of the redistricting process that prohibits overt partisanship. The court said the commission should strive as hard as possible to achieve a 54% Republican to 46% Democrat split in voter preferences statewide.
The passed Republican cards had a 57 GOP to 42 Dem split in the Ohio House and a 20 GOP to 13 Dem split in the Senate. Four of the Democratic-leaning seats give the Dems a narrow 50-51% advantage, considered a draw by many. All but one of the Senate seats in the plan were over 54%.
In the House, 12 of the “Democrat-leaning” seats in the GOP plan could also be considered draws, with Democratic favor just 50-51 percent. All GOP-leaning seats favor Republicans more than 52 percent.
The Democratic bid had 45 Democratic-leaning House seats and 54 GOP districts, with 18 GOP Senate districts and 15 Democratic districts.
After the vote, Cupp argued that while 54-46 was an expressed goal by the Supreme Court, perfection was not. He denied that the constitution or court order spoke of an “absolute ideal”, instead saying the court wanted a plan to “closely match”.
“If the ideal is 55 House seats or 54 House seats, we have 57 Republicans leaning,” Cupp said. “That’s just three seats down and in a 99-member legislature that’s essentially 97% of the target.”
The minority side released an opposition statement, read at the end of the ORC meeting by elected House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, who accused the Republican commissioners of ” lack of political courage and blatant disregard for the court order”. and the will of Ohio voters.
She also raised the same concern that Democratic cartographer Chris Glassburn raised during the last few days of committee hearings, the “extremely thin margins,” those districts seen as games, in the maps.
He spoke out on the matter again, saying the Democratic proposal has fewer precincts, lessening concerns that the Ohio Supreme Court may consider the map “skewed” in its partisanship.
Glassburn also maintained its previous position that the majority party was not working for the same ends as the Democrats.
Republican mapmakers Ray DiRossi and Blake Springhetti presented the map to the commission, saying they had spent the week trying to bring the maps into compliance with the constitution and the Supreme Court order.
“The rulings were centered on compliance with the court order and closely matched Section 6, and we did that,” Springhetti told the commission.
Republicans also released a statement to comply with a constitutional requirement explaining why a 4-year card passed by simple majority, rather than a bipartisan 10-year card.
“The commission believes that the number of Republican-leaning districts and Democratic-leaning districts closely aligns with strict proportionality, particularly in light of Ohio’s voter distribution and geography,” the statement said.
Passing the maps sends them back to the state high court for review and opens the way for a three-day window in which objections can be filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, which said in its decision rejecting the previous cards that they oversee the process again.
Anti-gerrymandering groups have already spoken out in force against the cards, criticizing not only the final product, but also the lack of a public process along the 10-day period.
“I knew it would be a challenge, but it definitely becomes a challenge when you’re not engaging in a public process, when you’re not really having discussions at the regional level,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio.
Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox