Provided by Hannah News Service
What is a competitive district when it comes to drawing Ohio General Assembly districts?
That was among the questions the independent mapmakers had for the Ohio Redistricting Commission as they got to work drawing a new General Assembly plan Thursday.
Michael McDonald and Douglas Johnson told commissioners that Thursday morning was spent setting up the computers that will be used to start drawing maps, as well as installing the software. They began drawing their proposed map Thursday afternoon, mainly focusing on Franklin County.
Most of the discussion during Thursday's meeting centered around what measures the mapmakers should use to determine a competitive district, with the two splitting on how they should go about it.
The Ohio Supreme Court had ruled that the commission had violated the Ohio Constitution when it had drawn too many districts that were in the 48 to 52 percent indexed range and counted them as Democratic-leaning seats.
Johnson told the commission they could look strictly at the numbers, but proposed also looking at districts that have flipped in the last decade and using those indexes as a way of determining how competitive the seat is.
McDonald said he didn't think the Court would go for that measure, and said he would not endorse it. He said the way he reads the Court's opinion is it wants to level the playing field so it is not tilted one way or the other.
Auditor Keith Faber suggested the 48 to 52 percent range was a good starting point, but added that the mapmakers are likely going to run into the same issues every other mapmaker has had in this cycle. He said every map they seriously considered had many more competitive seats for Democrats than Republicans.
Members of the commission decided to take the issue back to their staffs and legal counsel and said they would get back to the mapmakers at the next meeting. The mapmakers said they didn't think it would prevent them from continuing to work.
The mapmakers had also asked the commission how to handle issues of compactness when certain census blocks don't line up with township and city lines, and whether they should treat those blocks as part of a township or part of the city. They said the issues would affect very few voters but wanted to make sure they get it right.
Blake Springhetti and Chris Glassburn, who had drawn previous maps presented to the commission, told the mapmakers that they had previously placed those blocks with the larger entity whether it was the township or city. The commission also advised the mapmakers that they could present some of those questions to the staffers who had previously worked on the maps and go with their suggestions if the staffers agree.
The commission also heard from mediator Scott Coburn, who told the commission that it was better to bring concerns to them as soon as possible for resolution rather than waiting until down the road and it becomes a larger roadblock.
The commission went into recess until the next meeting, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, March 25, though the recess will allow the commission to reconvene if it has to address an issue before then.
The efforts of the mapmakers can be viewed in real-time through three separate streams on the Ohio Channel.