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Some questions and challenges mark first day of work for Ohio's independent mapmakers

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Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Redistricting Commission meets, in-person and virtually, for status update from independent mapmakers Douglas Johnson and Michael McDonald on March 24, 2022.

The two redistricting experts, hired by the state to draw new House and Senate district maps, ran into start-up issues and some disagreements over the course of their first day of mapmaking.

A glimpse inside the process of redistricting showed several challenges mapmakers face when drafting new plans, from loading the right software to getting accurate data.

Douglas Johnson and Michael McDonald gave their report on Day One of mapmaking to the Ohio Redistricting Commission on Thursday night.

After the setbacks with getting started, they said they began drawing districts for Franklin County.

The commission has until March 28 to adopt a new state legislative district plan.

Johnson and McDonald said they ran into a disagreement over how to assess competitive districts. That includes what's considered a toss-up district and how can they be proportioned between Republican and Democratic districts.

Watch: Live stream of mapmakers drawing new state legislative districts

The commission said they will have further discussions with their staff to come up with an answer on that issue.

The commission's mediator on the mapmaking team, Scott Coburn, advised that the map drawers should continue to work while these types of questions are sorted out by commissioners.

The Ohio Channel is providing a live stream of the mapmaking process, which includes a look inside the room and a direct stream from the mapmaking computer. Officials with The Ohio Channel said the mapmaking process for Day One received 2,700 unique views.

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), commission co-chair, noted the importance for transparency in the redistricting process.

"This is somewhat historic for not just for the state of Ohio but I think nationwide to have this type of openness not just in the working where you're able to observe what they're doing but also in our open meetings," said Sykes.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) added that the live stream can give the public a sense of just how difficult it is to draw new state legislative districts.

Following the commission meeting, the mapmaking team went back to work Thursday evening.

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