by J.D. Davidson
The Ohio Redistricting Commission expects to approve new legislative maps Wednesday, the constitutional deadline, after hearing testimony Tuesday, most of which was more critical of the proposed maps than supportive.
The commission heard from 90 witnesses Tuesday, the second public hearing for maps introduced Sept. 9. Many witnesses during the hearing, which began at 10 a.m. and was still going after 3 p.m., complained of divided neighborhoods, unfair district lines, confusing districts and an unopen process.
Ohio resident Andrea Yagoda chastised the committee for not being present throughout the entire hearing. She said none of the Republican members of the commission were present when she testified a little after 2 p.m., or four hours after the hearing began.
Tuesday’s hearing followed a hearing Monday that lasted more than six hours.
Attorney Tom Roberts called Ohio a Republican state and the proposed map represented the voters’ will during his testimony.
Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, asked the commission to not ignore Black and brown communities.
“I am still hopeful that the Commission will come together on a 10-year #FairMaps that reflect the voters will,” West tweeted after his testimony.
Democrats offered changes Monday to the proposed Republican map, saying the changes would create more fair maps and adhere to what they said was the spirit of redistricting reforms passed by voters in 2015.
The Democrats plan would keep a Republican majority in the General Assembly, based on past elections, but it would not keep a veto-proof majority.
“We hope the Republican members of the Commission were serious when they said they want to work with us to improve these maps and put us on a path to passing a bipartisan, 10-year plan,” commission members Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, and Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said in a joint statement. “Time is running out. We need swift action to ensure we uphold our constitutional duty to deliver fair maps and better representation for all of us – the way the voters intended.”
Secretary of State Frank LaRose, also a member of the commission, tweeted he believes progress is being made.
“Our new redistricting process requires both sides coming to the table with a genuine intention to succeed. The good news? Positive steps are being made, but it can only succeed if we all work together,” LaRose tweeted.
The commission contains two Democrats and five Republicans, but the commission established by voters in 2018 requires complete support for approved maps to last 10 years. If not, maps must be redrawn in four years.
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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 a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by Steven Miller CC BY 2.0.