Ohio Redistricting GOP Say They Had No Options for State Maps

by J.D. Davidson


Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission say they did everything the state Supreme Court ordered them to do. Still, they say independent map makers ran out of time, leaving tweaks to a previously unconstitutional GOP plan as the only option for new state legislative districts.

The responses from Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, State Auditor Keith Faber, Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, and House Speaker Robert Cupp, R-Lima, came at the 9 a.m. deadline on Monday the court gave to show cause why the group should not be held in contempt.

There is no indication of when the court will rule on contempt or the constitutionality of the commission’s fourth attempt at state legislative maps.

“It is undisputed that the independent mapdrawers ran out of time to draw a map ‘from scratch’ that met the requirements of this court’s order and the Ohio Constitution. Only after that became clear did the Commission adopt the ‘failsafe’ plan that complies with the Constitution. There is no contempt. Only a good faith effort to comply with this court’s orders,” the response from Huffman and Cupp read.

Groups challenged the fourth set of maps after the commission bypassed its two independent map makers and narrowly approved an updated version of its third set of maps on March 28, which previously were ruled unconstitutional. The new plan was developed by Republican staff.

The motion from the League of Women Voters and other groups challenging the districts said the redistricting process took a shocking turn and was hijacked by four of the Republican commissioners.

“The plan adopted by the commission at the eleventh-hour on March 28 and submitted to the court is not the bipartisan, transparently drawn, map of the entire commission. By its sponsors’ admission, it is the invalidated second revised plan with ‘only minor changes,’” the motion reads.

The commission hired the two mapmakers at $450 an hour with a cap of $49,000 for each. A total cost for the process has not yet been calculated, according to Maya Majikas, deputy communications director for the Democrats.

The groups also said 5 of 7 commission members had not seen the new maps when introduced to the commission at 9:30 p.m. on March 28, a little more than two hours before a court-ordered deadline for approval. They also claimed that none of the members were allowed to offer amendments to the map. A recess to review the map was denied, they added.

The challengers believe the four commissioners voting for the plan violated the court’s order for the commission to draft and adopt new maps entirely, and the drafting should be done in public.

DeWine’s response said the court’s order, which left the commission a little more than 10 days to draw new maps, was impossible to follow.

“The time requirements of this Court’s Order created two impossible choices, which, in the end, was no choice at all,” DeWine’s response reads.

Ohio’s May 3 primary is currently set to open with early voting Tuesday without legislative races appearing on the ballot. The General Assembly has not established a date for a second primary. Currently, congressional races are on the ballot, but the court has yet to rule that those districts are constitutional.

LaRose said the second primary is expected to cost the state up to $20 million.

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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist at The Center Square 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.
Photo “Governor Mike DeWine” by Mike DeWine. Photo “Keith Faber” by Keith Faber. Photo “Frank LaRose” by Equality Ohio. Photo “Matt Huffman” by The Ohio Senate. Photo “Robert Cupp” by The Ohio House of Representatives. Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by . CC BY-SA 4.0.

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