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Politics

Ohio Redistricting Panel Meets Briefly Due To Census Data Lag

Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes, Senate President Matt Huffman, House Speaker Bob Cupp, both Republicans, and Democratic state Sen. Vernon Sykes speak to Auditor Keith Faber at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, ahead of the first meeting Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, of the Ohio Redistricting Commission on which they all sit.
Julie Carr Smyth
/
AP
Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes, Senate President Matt Huffman, House Speaker Bob Cupp, both Republicans, and Democratic state Sen. Vernon Sykes speak to Auditor Keith Faber at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, ahead of the first meeting Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, of the Ohio Redistricting Commission on which they all sit.

The closely watched panel pivotal to redrawing Ohio’s congressional and legislative districts has kicked off with a whimper. Officials again pointed Friday to delayed release of 2020 Census figures even as the clock on their September deadlines continues ticking.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine convened the high-powered Ohio Redistricting Commission for a Statehouse hearing that lasted about 7 minutes. That included administration of oaths to its members. Republican House Speaker Bob Cupp and Democratic state Sen. Vernon Sykes, of Akron, were appointed co-chairs.

Cupp announced nine upcoming public meetings around the state. Dates and locations were not yet available.

The panel is in charge of drafting new district lines for the Ohio House and Senate. Meanwhile, sitting lawmakers get the first crack at drawing the map for congressional districts.

Vernon Sykes said those lines must be fair.

"Together I believe we can end partisan gerrymandering and draw districts that result in fair districts which represent the citizens of this great state," he said.

The commission must meet a Sept. 1 deadline for having the legislative districts drawn. However states won’t receive data the U.S. Census Bureau until August 12

In both cases this is the first time Ohio is redrawing its boundaries with new constitutional rules approved by the voters. Those amendments require drafters to keep geographic boundaries like counties, cities and townships whole where possible, and demand buy-in from the minority party.

If the commission can’t get its two Democrats on board, whatever map they do approve will only be in place for four years. After that, they’ll have to get back together and try again.

Jo Ingles contributed to this report.