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Politics

Redistricting Watchdogs Say Ohio's Commission Drawing Legislative Maps Needs To Do More

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 panel drawing new lines for Ohio House and Senate districts was supposed to have those maps done by September and missed that constitutional deadline. A coalition of watchdog groups keeping eyes on Ohio’s redistricting process said more needs to be done about that.

The Fair Districts Coalition wanted the Ohio Redistricting Commission to convene earlier this summer to talk about the process. But the first meeting didn’t happen till August 6, and the commission missed its first map deadline last week.

Majority Republicans on the commission blame a delay in census data. But Jen Miller with the Ohio League of Women Voters said that shouldn’t stop the process.

“There should be hearings specifically about the technical details that could start right now even as they are working on maps," Miller said.

Earlier this year, Republican Attorney General Dave Yost sued the federal government for delaying census data but he is not taking legal action over the maps not being drawn by the September 1 deadline.

The commission now must meet a September 15 deadline.

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 to create a map that is used for 10 years.

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.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.