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Democrats fail to hold Ohio redistricting meeting without Republican support

(From left to right) House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) wanted Republicans from the Ohio Redistricting Commission to show up for a meeting they proposed to continue the mapmaking process. They would need one Republican from the commission to join them in order to reconvene.

Democratic members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission attempted to hold a meeting in the Ohio Statehouse but failed to gain the required support of at least one Republican commissioner.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) have been calling for the commission to reconvene in order to meet the Ohio Supreme Court deadline of creating new state legislative district maps by May 6.

With time running out, Russo said Republican commissioners are lacking a sense of urgency to pass constitutional maps.

"This, I think, just shows such a disrespect for the voters of Ohio who overwhelmingly passed these initiatives back in 2015. Such a disrespect for our state constitution and for really the rule of law," said Russo.

The Democratic leaders were not able to gain access to the Statehouse committee room where the redistricting commission usually meets. The Ohio House Clerk's office said a formal request to use the room was not filed.

Sykes is a commission co-chair but he would need the other co-chair, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), to join him in calling for a meeting. Cupp's office said they will keep everyone updated when a meeting is scheduled, but did not add any further details.

Commission rules also state that any three commissioners can call for a meeting, but none of the Republican members have joined Sykes and Russo.

The commission faces a second deadline as well. If the commission does not adopt new maps that are deemed constitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court by May 28, the federal court will implement Republican-drawn maps already deemed unconstitutional by the state supreme court. Five of the seven commissioners are Republicans.

Every map adopted by the commission was by a Republican majority vote and has been ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court. Those rulings said each map unduly favored the GOP.

Early voting is under way for Ohio's May 3 primary. Voters will be casting their ballots for statewide, congressional, and local races. However, the races for state legislative offices were removed from the ballots. A second primary will need to take place for those races.

The federal court decision set a May 28 deadline with the goal of allowing Ohio to hold that second primary for state legislative races on August 2.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.