Ohio legislative districts mapmakers could have rough drafts ready for public comment this weekend
Two independent mapmakers hired by the state to draw maps for new legislative districts showed members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission drafts of some of the state's key urban areas this afternoon. Michael McDonald and Douglas Johnson said they hope to have a map of the whole state available by the commission's meeting late tomorrow afternoon. And leaders of the commission said they think they might be able to have hearings on the proposed statewide map of Ohio's House and Senate districts available for public comment as early as Sunday.
Early Friday morning, a panel of three federal judges heard from some Republican activists who want the court to implement the third set of Ohio House/Senate maps that were ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Ohio Supreme Court so the full May 3 primary can go forward. The court asked Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio) for more information about the election process before deciding its next move.
Earlier this week, LaRose issued a directive to local boards of elections to remove Ohio House and Senate races from the May 3 primary ballot, since there are currently no valid maps that show those districts. He said if the federal court got involved in the next few days, a supplemental second ballot could be used, but he said that could create confusion for voters. He said it's possible for the May 3 primary to go forward without having the legislative districts determined but that would mean there would have to be a second primary at some point. And election leaders have said that would cost millions of dollars more and create more confusion. Legislative leaders said they do not want to move the May 3 primary though some Democratic members have sponsored legislation to do just that. LaRose said he’s disappointed the federal court hasn't yet decided whether to allow the primary to go forward using legislative maps previously deemed unconstitutional. He told reporters after today's commission meeting that it’s almost too late for a single May 3 primary with all races on the ballot.
“The only possibility of a complete May 3 primary meaning a primary on May 3 that includes state legislative races, state central committee races and all of the rest – the only possibility for that is prompt action by the federal court," LaRose said.
Meanwhile, activists who want the new map-drawing process to play out are asking the federal court to allow it, noting the process is different this time around. Common Cause Ohio’s Catherine Turcer said this map-drawing process is new and urged the judges to wait for the results.
“It’s just logical to actually get good districts that are not gerrymandered before you hold an election,” Turcer said.
Another activist, Meryl Neiman, co-founder of the Ohio Progressive Action League (OPAL), said Ohio voters are the ones who demanded a more fair redistricting process when they voted for reforms in 2015 and 2018. And she said if the federal court allows the Republican map to go forward, it will be sending the wrong message.
"We need to not teach our children the lesson that cheating works," Neiman said.
The commission has until March 28th to adopt new maps unless the federal court intervenes.
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