House and Senate Republicans introduced separate congressional redistricting proposals Wednesday, arguing they comply with the new constitutional requirements enacted by voters in 2018 and create several competitive districts. Legislative Democrats criticized a lack of transparency in the process, saying they’d had no chance to review the maps ahead of time, and advocates who pushed for state and congressional redistrict reforms said the rollout failed to meet the spirit of the new processes that voters enshrined in the Ohio Constitution.
Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) presented HB479 in the House Government Oversight Committee in the morning, while Sen. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon) testified on SB258 in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee in the afternoon. Both bills had had only placeholder text until acceptance of substitute versions in the hearings Wednesday. The Senate committee also took sponsor testimony on SB237 (Yuko-Sykes), a proposal Senate Democrats released weeks ago.
A major impediment to the ability of policymakers to complete the maps on time was a significant delay in receiving population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Pre-pandemic, that data would have been provided several months earlier, permitting those charged with map drawing to have adequate time to meet key deadlines.
The Republican map sponsors in both chambers said the proposals split fewer counties and other political subdivisions than the current maps and aim for the least amount of population variance possible, with each district including either 786,630 or 786,629 residents.
They also argued they included several competitive districts, depending on the partisan indices used for analysis.
“Depending on the index you’re using, there could be a very tight cluster around the 50 percent mark with a good number of them below the 50 percent mark as far as a Republican index is concerned,” McColley said after the Senate hearing. He said there could be as many as eight competitive districts.
Analysis done by experts aligned with Fair Districts Ohio showed a heavier Republican advantage, however.
Democrats in both committees formally objected to adoption of the substitute bills, citing their lack of advance notice of the details.
The House hearing was lengthier than the Senate’s, with several rounds of questions from the committee’s Democrats and a handful from Republicans. Oelslager deferred most technical questions on the map, saying House staffer Blake Springhetti had done the actual map drawing. He told Democrats Springhetti’s availability to testify would be determined by leadership.
Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) asked Oelslager how he thought the proposal met not just the technical requirements of the new constitutional provisions but the spirit with which they were passed. Oelslager responded that his testimony Wednesday was just the beginning of a process that will allow anyone interested to make their thoughts known.
This feature was provided by Hannah News Service and selected for you by OSCPA Government Relations staff.