(The Center Square) – The Ohio Redistricting Commission scheduled three public hearings over the next week to present potential state legislative redistricting maps that would keep solid GOP control in both the House and Senate.
Republicans control five of the seven seats on the commission and presented a plan that would reduce GOP districts in both the House and Senate but keep a 63% House majority and a 69% Senate advantage.
Democrats say those numbers fall short of the constitutionally required split that mirrors voters’ preferences over the past 10 years, which is about 54% Republican and 46% Democrat.
“The very problem this commission is tasked with fixing – gerrymandering – was on full display,” said House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington. “The supermajority Republicans showed their hand and made it clear to Ohio they’re not serious about drawing fair maps or upholding constitutional requirements. Instead, they intend to pass gerrymandered districts drawn for the GOP supermajority by the GOP supermajority. Don’t be fooled. What they’re doing is rigging the game in their favor and cutting Ohio voters out of the process.”
Russo and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio are the two Democratic members of the seven-member commission, which also includes Republicans Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Gov. Mike DeWine, State Auditor Keith Faber, Rep. Jeff LaRe and Sen. Rob McColley.
Republicans said the approved working maps meet other constitutional requirements of limiting county, city and township splits throughout the state. McColley, who said he believes keeping cities whole was more important than meeting the voting preferences, said there is only one city split in the working map.
Public hearings are scheduled for Friday at Deer Creek State Park in south central Ohio, Punderson Manor in northeast Ohio on Monday and at the Statehouse on Tuesday.
Republicans hold 67 of the 99 House seats and 26 of the 33 Senate seats.
LaRose had said the commission must pass new maps by Friday but has since said a deadline of Oct. 23 is needed to meet constitutional requirements for the spring primary.
Democrats also introduced proposed working maps Wednesday that were rejected in a 4-2 party-line vote. DeWine, who has COVID-19, attended the meeting remotely and did not vote.
Those maps would have created 19 GOP (58%) and 14 Democrat (42%) seats in the Senate and 56 Republican (57%) and 43 Democrat (43%) seats in the House.
If final maps are not passed with votes from at least two members of each party, they would have to be redrawn in two years. The current attempt comes after the commission failed to meet that requirement two years ago.
Eventually, a federal court implemented maps, twice ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, used in a second primary in August 2022.