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Compromise Talks On Congressional Redistricting Reform Fall Apart

Karen Kasler
Statehouse Bureau
Reps. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Matt Huffman (R-Lima) chaired the 2015 campaign for Issue 1 on Statehouse redistricting. Now in the Senate, Huffman is working on a Congressional redistricting plan he says will be similar.

A coalition of citizens groups had been talking with state lawmakers about a compromise to change the way Ohio’s Congressional map is redrawn.

After just a few days, both sides now say efforts to reach a deal have failed.

State Rep. Matt Huffman of Lima laid out his redistricting reform plan earlier this month, but said too many rules on dividing districts would hinder the process.

The groups, including Common Cause Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio, say they’ll continue their drive to take their plan to the November ballot because they say the lawmakers’ plan doesn’t keep communities together or create a bipartisan process.

Sen. Vern Sykes and Rep. Jack Cera, the two Democratic lawmakers working on the plan, agreed, saying it writes gerrymandering into the state constitution. Sykes had previously criticized the proposal to require buy-in from the minority party as racially discriminatory. 

Republican leaders said last week they wanted the citizens’ groups’ support, and described their changes as significant. They increased the amount of minority support required, but said splitting large counties into separate districts must be allowed.

A spokesman for Senate Republicans now says what he called “these special interest groups” had no intention of coming to an agreement.

Lawmakers have to pass their plan by next Wednesday if they want voters to decide on it in May.

Meanwhile, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has suggested that the plan require maps to get bipartisan approval and that counties can’t be split until the entire population has been used up to draw a district.