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Ohio Redistricting Commission does about-face, reverts back to previous maps

Dan Konik
Ohio Public Radio
The Ohio Redistricting Commission meets on the morning of March 28, 2022.

Hours before a deadline from the Ohio Supreme Court, the state body charged with drawing new legislative district maps voted to bypass the work of two independent consultants and instead made minor changes to maps previously ruled unconstitutional by the court.

Most of Monday, the seven-member, GOP-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission awaited the final results from two independent mapmakers who worked through the weekend on new maps in a first-ever process allowing their work to be viewed step-by-step online.

The commission hired the mapmakers after the panel's first three attempts at new House and Senate districts maps were ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court for illegally favoring Republicans.

Late Monday afternoon, the commission reversed course and voted 5-2 to revive maps previously declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court and make some adjustments to them in the hopes of fixing problems identified by the court.

Later in the evening, the commission voted 4-3 to enact the maps. Republican state auditor Keith Faber joined the two Democrats on the panel in voting against the maps, saying he wasn't sure the court would consider them constitutional.

Ohio House Speaker and commission co-chair Bob Cupp said the commission's hand was forced by the Supreme Court deadline. He said members did not have time to fully vet maps from the independent consultants as being fully constitutional.

"It's not feasible to expect that we'll have a complete plan," Cupp said as the commission voted to bring back the old maps for discussion.

Later in the meeting, Democratic commission member and House Minority Leader Allison Russo said Republicans who voted for the revived maps "refused to bend to reality" and "pulled the same dirty tricks" by approving maps that disproportionately favor their party.

"No amount of pressure from the Supreme Court of Ohio or help from nationally-renowned experts will sway the majority commissioners in their mission to retain an unjustifiable and unconstitutional monopoly on power," Russo said.

The maps now go back to the Ohio Supreme Court for further review and could face more legal challenges.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is also a member of the redistricting commission, has said it is now impossible to have legislative races on the May 3 primary ballot. He recently ordered county election officials to remove those races from ballots.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.