Week of Meetings for Panel Drawing District Lines Underway
The panel of lawmakers that will draw new district lines for Ohio’s representatives and senators in the Statehouse held its first two meetings Monday in Cleveland and Youngstown, with eight more scheduled throughout the state this week.
While there are no maps for people to offer input on, there was plenty of testimony on what they want them to look like.
The meetings of Ohio's redistricting commission, which will draw the lines for maps for the state House and Senate, brought out past and current political candidates and longtime activists, among others. Most, like Kathleen Gage, wanted maps with more Democratic representation.
“Whatever Ohio is, we are not a 76% Republican, 24% Democrat state, which is the current configuration of the Ohio Senate," Gage told the redistricting panel at the meeting at Youngstown State University.
Under the maps drawn by Republicans in 2011, there are GOP supermajorities in the Statehouse and Republicans dominate 12-4 in the Ohio Congressional delegation.
However, conservative Tom Hack, who was called out for not wearing a mask, felt left out.
“This audience is not reflective of Ohio as a whole. Who’s getting heckled? The guy who speaks out different than anybody else," Hack said at the first meeting, at Cleveland State University.
That meeting was so crowded that the session had to be briefly stopped after it started so a wall could be moved to accommodate those who wanted to attend.
Maria Cordaro is in the same anti-COVID lockdown group as Hack, and said that’s how she heard about the meetings.
“The only reason I know about any of this election is joining groups like Free Ohio Now, which is how I get most of my information," Cordaro said at the Cleveland session.
Of the seven members of the commission, there were notable absences - Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).
Bria Bennett is a Democrat running for a state House seat, and called out Republicans DeWine and LaRose for missing the meeting.
“By scheduling these meetings during the day and in the morning, and then refusing to show up, they show that they don’t really care about us. They just care about what they can get from us," Bennett said at the meeting in Youngstown.
DeWine was photographed at the Cincinnati Bengals training camp. A statement from DeWine’s office noted he was at the Cleveland Browns camp last week and enjoys supporting all of Ohio’s professional sports teams.
Several of those testifying before the members who were there said the times and locations of the meetings prevented more people from weighing in. And some said they hoped for meetings after the maps are drawn.
There have been no public sessions set for input on the Congressional map, which is drawn by state lawmakers. Because of slow population growth, Ohio will lose a seat in Congress, going from 16 members to 15.
The constitutional amendments that changed the map drawing process require three hearings after the State House and Senate maps are proposed and before the redistricting commission votes on September 1. At least two hearings are required after the Congressional map is put forward but before state lawmakers vote on it on September 30.
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