Facing two redistricting deadlines, Ohio Democrats call on GOP commissioners to reconvene
The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the Ohio Redistricting Commission to adopt a new set of state legislative district maps by May 6, but so far there has been no movement from Republican leadership to reconvene.
The Democratic members are calling on just one of their fellow Republicans to join them so they can get to work on new maps. It takes three member of the commission to reconvene the panel.
House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) say the redistricting commission should restart the independent mapmaking process they started last month.
Earlier this week, a federal court ruling said if new maps are not in place by May 28 then it will implement a set of maps. The maps would be from a plan adopted by the commission on February 24 but ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court on March 16. This is known as the third attempt or Map 3.
In a letter to the commission, Russo and Sykes wrote, "Nothing in the [federal court] order yesterday absolves the commission of its responsibilities, rather the order encourages us to rise above partisan interests and adopt constitutional maps prior to the court’s deadline."
The redistricting commission adopted a new set of Ohio House and Ohio Senate district maps on March 28. Those maps were drawn by Republican legislative staffers while independent mapmakers – who were hired by the commission – were finishing up their work on district plans.
The Ohio Supreme Court invalidated that Republican-drawn plan and ordered the commission to adopt a fifth attempt at district maps by May 6.
Groups that have challenged the Republican-drawn maps in the Ohio Supreme Court have suggested the federal court ruling is a win for the GOP commissioners who have consistently adopted unconstitutional maps.
Republican plaintiffs filed the federal court case asking for federal judges to implement Map 3. Donald Brey, attorney for the plaintiffs, said there is still an incentive for the redistricting commission to come back and draw new maps because of the May 6 supreme court deadline.
"I believe they're not so much concerned that they won't have a new map, but that they are concerned that the new map will be one that the critics don't like and perhaps that the majority of the Ohio Supreme Court doesn't like," said Brey. "So what they're criticizing is not so much 'are they going to draw a map?' But they are expressing dismay that they're not forced to draw a map they don't want to draw."
The Ohio Supreme Court began proceedings to possibly hold members of the redistricting commission in contempt for missing a court-ordered deadline in February. However, the motion was dropped once the commission adopted maps six days later.
Rules for the Ohio Redistricting Commission state that a meeting can be called by the co-chairs or by any three commission members.
None of the five Republican commissioners have said if they will join Russo and Sykes in calling for a new meeting.
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