Republicans pass amended legislative maps in 4-3 vote
On Monday night, the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved the Ohio Legislature’s new 4-3 maps. The cards followed party lines, with all four Republicans, including Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp and Ohio Senate Speaker Matt Huffman, voting to endorse them. Since none of the Commission Democrats, nor Republican State Auditor Keith Faber, voted for the cards, the plans will only last four years.
These maps represent the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s fourth attempt to pass reconfiguration plans for Ohio’s State House and Senate districts. The Ohio Supreme Court is demanding that the new maps reflect the partisan divide in voting preferences statewide in Ohio. According to Columbus Expeditionover the past decade, Ohioans voted for Republican candidates 54% of the time on average and for Democrats 46% of the time.
The Commission had its third try late last month, when it proposed changes to the proportional distribution of Ohio’s legislative districts. These maps were approved by the Commission on February 24, but rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court on March 16.
In its ruling, the Court rejected the third-round maps and asked the Commission to meet to draft an “entirely new General Assembly District plan consistent with the Ohio Constitution.” The Court also rejected the Commission’s original and second-round plans, which were proposed late last year and gave Republicans a 57-42 advantage in the State House and a 20- 13 in the State Senate, and ruled them unconstitutional. In its March 16 ruling, the Court also ruled that the new maps should be drafted in a public setting to increase “transparency and public confidence.”
To comply with the Court’s recommendation that maps be drawn in a public place, the Commission hired independent cartographers from the University of Florida and the National Demographics Corporation to redraw the map. On March 24, a live stream began showing the mappers as they worked on the new plans.
However, by the March 28 deadline, independent mapmakers had not produced a final map for review. In its place, Cupp and Huffman offered slightly modified versions of their rejected third-round cards. These maps appear to meet the proportional representation standard by giving Republicans a 54-45 advantage in the State House and an 18-15 advantage in the state Senate, but their passage has drawn ire from state Democrats. .
In one Tweeter posted on Tuesday, State Senator Vernon Sykes (D-28) referenced that the maps were made outside the public eye, referencing the live stream, and argued that Commission Republicans deliberately decided to hand over the cards without any transparency or respect for the constitutionality of their plans.
“We took a historic step toward transparency, but Republicans are hijacking the process,” Sykes tweeted. “This ridiculous diversion is insulting to voters and incurs considerable expense for Ohio taxpayers,” He continued.
However, according to Cupp and Huffman, approving the redrawn third-round cards was the only way to meet the 11:59 p.m. deadline. According to Cleveland.com, Huffman called the modified cards “failsafe.”
After the move, Sykes and Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-24) issued a joint statement March 29 in which they say the Republican maps are unconstitutional and that a majority of commissioners adopted the maps in an effort to overturn the transparent, bipartisan redistricting process mandated by the Ohio Supreme Court.
“The Republican maps violate the Constitution and the Court’s requirement that the maps must reflect the preferences of Ohio voters statewide,” the statement said. “The Republican commissioners have chosen their own partisan power over the voters of Ohio whom they have a duty to represent,” Russo wrote in the joint statement. “It’s abundantly clear that Republicans don’t have the political will, not the ability, to pass constitutional maps.”
Professor of political science and associate director of the Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) in Kenyon, Nancy Powers said it was not surprising to see partisan Commission officials trying to maintain a majority by tilting the gerrymanders in their favour. Even so, Powers pointed to the negative effects that this type of partisan gerrymandering has on the democratic process.
“This whole debacle involves two serious problems for the quality of our democracy,” she wrote in an email to the college student. “One is the representation of voter preferences. The other is horizontal accountability. … The court attempted to hold the redistricting commission accountable for upholding the constitution and the commission appeared to be testing the court’s resolution rather than complying with it.
Due to the late approval of the cards, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the original primary date of May 3 would have to be changed. The primary will take place between May 24 and August 2.