Work continues on next series of Ohio Statehouse District maps

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s political mapping agency disagreed Monday on partisan lines about how best to finish work on a new set of constitutionally sound boundaries for state legislative districts.

Throughout the day, the seven-member GOP-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission awaited final results from two independent mappers who worked all weekend on new maps as part of of a very first process allowing to visualize their work step by step online.

Late in the afternoon, the commission reversed course and voted 5-2 to revive the maps previously declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Ohio and make some adjustments to them in hopes of fixing the problems identified. by the court.

The decision was necessary to meet the Supreme Court’s midnight deadline on Monday, said Republican Senate Chairman Matt Huffman, a member of the committee. The remaining freelance mapper is expected to continue its work, but the panel needs a “safety valve” to ensure it can meet the deadline and not be scorned, Huffman said.

“If we’re not going to land the plane, it would be nice to have a parachute,” he said.

Democrats have strongly criticized this decision. Rep. Allison Russo, the House’s top Democrat, called it a “slap in the face to Ohio voters” who ignored the Supreme Court’s order to draw constitutional maps. She wondered if the court would find the commission in contempt if it delivered cards a few hours late.

“Ridiculous,” said Sen. Vernon Sykes, a Democrat from Akron.

“There seems to be no end to supermajority arrogance,” Sykes said, referring to the Republican majority in the House and Senate.

Republican committee members who voted to make adjustments to previously rejected maps included Huffman, State Auditor Keith Faber, House Speaker Bob Cupp, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Governor Mike DeWine.

Both Russo and Sykes voted against the proposal.

The state Supreme Court rejected the three previous sets of Ohio House and Senate maps drawn by the panel, ruling by a 4-3 vote each time the plans were unconstitutionally manipulated to unduly favor the Republicans.

This time, the commission was aided by mediators from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and independent mappers. Also for the first time, the process took place live, with the mappers’ work – including every computer adjustment, no matter how small – being streamed online.

Ohioans overwhelmingly supported a 2015 constitutional amendment that required the redistricting commission to at least try to avoid partisan patronage and proportionally distribute districts to reflect the 54% Republican, 46% Democrat split in the Ohio.

The latest version of the House maps are constitutionally proportional and include three competitive districts that lean Republican and three that lean Democrat, University of Florida cartographer Mike McDonald said Monday.

The Senate map is also proportional, with two competitive constituencies for Democrats and none for Republicans.

“We looked at that closely and I don’t think we’ll be able to improve on that and maintain proportionality,” said McDonald, who had to leave Monday afternoon to catch a flight home.

Huffman said he was concerned the committee still hadn’t seen the Senate map late Monday afternoon.

Earlier Monday, Huffman raised concerns that eight of the 16 senators at their midterms would be living outside their current districts under the current map.

Faber criticized the current map for dividing urban areas into multiple Democratic-leaning districts to achieve proportional districts.

Russo noted that there is no constitutional requirement that entire districts be contained within a city.

Meanwhile, a panel of federal judges on Friday discussed a new option for keeping the state’s May 3 primary alive: reducing Ohio’s strong early voting period.

The panel ordered LaRose to determine by Monday whether such an adjustment would violate state or federal laws.

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