COLUMBUS — The Ohio Redistricting Commission will meet Tuesday to begin the process of redrawing the state’s House and Senate district maps with days to spare before a deadline set by the Ohio Supreme Court.
The commission will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the Ohio Statehouse, commission members announced on Sunday in a joint, bipartisan statement. The commission has until the end of Monday, Jan. 24, to approve new maps. The court tossed out the previous round of state legislative maps last Wednesday in a 4-3 decision and ordered the commission to draw new ones.
In a major change, commission members said Sunday that all seven commission members will have access to each others’ consultants and staff. The previous round of redistricting was dominated by two Republican legislative leaders on the commission - House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman, whose staff drew the maps - before Republicans then approved the maps through a party-line vote over the objections of commission Democrats.
Supreme Court justices criticized the dynamic - which also drew public and private complaints from the statewide, elected Republican officials on the commission - in the scathing majority opinion that declared the maps unconstitutional under Ohio’s new anti-gerrymandering rules.
The commission’s Sunday statement said it will be updating the commission’s website soon where the public can comment on the process, and said Tuesday’s meeting will be viewable online via the state government-run Ohio Channel. The statement made no reference to holding public hearings to air out the map proposals like it did before commission Republicans approved the new maps last September.
In last week’s ruling, Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joined the court’s three Democrats in declaring the maps unconstitutional. The maps would have favored Republicans to win two-thirds of Ohio’s state legislative seats, compared to Republicans’ 54% of the statewide vote in recent elections.
The court’s decision ordered the commission to approve maps designed to favor each party to win seats as proportionately as possible to each party’s share of the statewide vote. The majority opinion said new state constitutional language telling the commission to attempt to draw politically proportionate maps was mandatory, not optional, as Republicans had tried to argue.
Later last week, the court went on to also throw out new Republican-drawn congressional maps as unconstitutional, with O’Connor again joining the court’s three Democrats, and the other three Republican justices dissenting.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission is made up of five Republicans - Cupp, Huffman, Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Auditor Keith Faber - and two Democrats: Sen. Vernon Sykes and state Rep. Allison Russo, who was elected by her colleagues as the new House minority leader last week.
The state’s new redistricting rules are designed to encourage bipartisanship by requiring minority-party support for maps to last the typical 10 years. Otherwise, they will expire after four years.