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Redistricting commission adopts new GA maps

Written on Feb 25, 2022

Provided by Hannah News Service 

The Ohio Redistricting Commission Thursday evening adopted a third version of the General Assembly map plan on a 4-3 vote with Auditor Keith Faber joining Democrats in voting against it, making it another four-year map that will head to the Ohio Supreme Court for approval. 

The commission's actions came after Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor ordered the members of the commission to appear before the Court on Tuesday, March 1 at 10 a.m., to explain in-person why they did not meet the Court's deadline last week for adopting a new General Assembly map. The Court also said the members can be accompanied by their counsel and that no continuances will be granted. 

Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat Fischer filed separate letters with the Court noting their dissent with the order. 

Justice Pat DeWine, the son of commission member Gov. Mike DeWine, recused himself from the hearing after stating his plans to do so earlier this week. O'Connor appointed Fifth District Court of Appeals Judge Scott Gwin, a Democrat, to take Justice DeWine's place at the hearing. 

The new plan, which Republicans said would favor their party in 54 seats in the House and 18 seats in the Senate, was introduced by Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) Thursday afternoon. The plan did not get uploaded to the commission's website until shortly before 5 p.m., and the commission voted for it within a couple of hours after it was released to the public. 

Huffman said the plans comply with the Court's order calling for fewer districts that are within 49 percent to 51 percent political index, with two Senate districts falling within that range and five in the House, which Huffman said was identical to the Democrat-proposed map the commission rejected last week. 

Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R-Lima) argued that getting to the proportionality ordered by the Court "was very difficult to achieve and time consuming," but said this third plan does achieve that goal. He also said that 70 percent of House districts and 73 percent of all General Assembly districts were entirely different from districts in previous maps. 

Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron), a co-chair of the commission along with Cupp, said he was disappointed in the process, and asked the majority why they were voting on the map so quickly. Huffman said he appreciated the concerns, but said he preferred to vote on the map immediately, noting the urgency in Ohio Supreme Court rulings as well as from commission member Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who has sounded the alarm about getting new districts done in time for the May 3 primary. Huffman called all of the other options for meeting the May 3 primary bad. 

The commission also voted along party lines to adopt a statement that would allow LaRose to issue directives to county boards of elections that will allow candidates who have filed to run for the General Assembly to inform their boards of elections of their intent to move into a new district under the newly adopted plan. This directive was issued in order to meet a provision in the Ohio Constitution giving candidates 30 days after a plan is adopted to move into a General Assembly district that they intend to run for. 

Sykes argued that the motion exceeds the authority of the commission, which he said cannot change election law. LaRose said he has the authority to tell boards how to comply with the state laws and Ohio Constitution and argued that the commission has the duty to adopt the suggested language in the motion. 

The commission will be back to work next week, with Cupp saying they will meet Tuesday and likely Wednesday, March 1 and March 2, to continue work on congressional maps. 

The commission heard from two witnesses Thursday on congressional map proposals.