by J.D. Davidson
More than two weeks after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a fourth attempt at establishing Ohio legislative districts, the Ohio Redistricting Commission scheduled a meeting.
That meeting will come two days before the court’s deadline to submit a new set of maps.
The commission plans to meet May 4, a day after the first of two state primary elections. House Speaker and commission co-chairman Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said in a letter to co-chairman Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, meeting any sooner would be impossible.
“To recap our earlier conversation, it is both unwise and not feasible for the Redistricting Commission to meet prior to that date,” Cupp said in the letter. “Holding more meetings prior to May 3 would serve no other purpose than to further confuse the electorate. I am not willing to sacrifice the smooth operation of the primary election for the sole purpose of conducting business that can just as easily be conducted at the Redistricting Commission meeting already scheduled for May 4.”
The announcement came hours after commission Democrats and voter groups held a redistricting public form and rally at the statehouse. More than 60 people spoke about the process.
“I am forever grateful for all the Ohioans who have been fighting for fair districts for years. This process is exhausting, and it feels like our majority commissioners are putting up roadblocks every day. But we will not give up. We still have time to do this. We still have a court order to do this. We won’t stop fighting until Ohioans have the fair, constitutional maps they deserve,” said House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington.
Earlier this week, Russo and Sykes invited the five Republican members to a commission meeting after contacting members several times asking for the group to reconvene.
When the two showed up to the committee meeting room at the Ohio Statehouse, the doors were locked, and no Republican showed up. Cupp’s office said no request had been made to use the room.
The Ohio Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, tossed out the commission’s fourth attempt at maps and set a May 6 deadline for new maps that do not violate a 2015 constitutional amendment approved by voters that says the commission must try to avoid favoring one party over another.
Also, a federal court gave the commission until May 28 to draw state legislative redistricting maps that meet a court order, or it will implement a previously rejected map so the state can hold an Aug. 2 primary for state House and Senate races.
The three-judge panel, voting 2-1, said it would impose the commission’s third set of maps because the state had started preparing to use those maps before they were declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist for 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 “Vernon Sykes” by The Ohio Senate. Photo “Bob Cupp” by The Ohio House of Representatives. Background Photo “Ohio State Capitol” by Ɱ. CC BY-SA 4.0.