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Government/Politics

New Redistricting Commission Begins The Process Of Deciding Ohio's Political Maps

Redistricting commission convenes at Ohio Statehouse, August 6, 2021  (credit Dan Konik)
Dan Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Redistricting commission convenes at Ohio Statehouse, August 6, 2021

This is the first time Ohio will use a new, voter-approved process.

The redistricting commission charged with drawing new lines for state legislative districts convened Friday. It’s the commission’s first redistricting effort since voters approved changes to the process for drawing new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts.

Five Republicans and two Democrats sit on the panel. Governor Mike DeWine (R), Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), Auditor Keith Faber (R), House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) are on the panel because they occupy the offices designated by law to be part of the commission. House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) have been tapped by leaders to fill the commission’s minority seats. Cupp and Vernon Sykes will serve as co-chairs.

Vernon Sykes
Jo Ingles
Sen Vernon Sykes (D-Akron)

The immediate task of the new commission is to draw lines for legislative districts. Sykes says those lines must be fair.

"Together I believe we can end partisan gerrymandering and draw districts that result in fair districts which represent the citizens of this great state," Sykes said.

The commission must meet a Sept. 1 deadline for having the legislative districts drawn. That plan must have the support of four of the commission’s members, including both Democrats. If that doesn’t happen, the commission would put out a map with a majority vote.

That map does not have to be bipartisan and a public hearing must be held to get feedback on that map. After that hearing, the commission would need to adopt a final plan.

There will be nine hearings throughout the state in the coming weeks so voters can weigh in.

If the map receives bipartisan support, if it is a bipartisan vote, the map would be in effect for ten years. but If the vote for that map falls along party lines, the map must be redrawn after four years.

When it comes to drawing lines for Congressional districts, Ohio lawmakers will start that process, with the goal of meeting a Sept. 30 deadline.

The map needs to have support from 60% of the lawmakers in both the House and the Senate. Half of the Democrats in each of those chambers must approve the map in order to be put in place for ten years.

If lawmakers cannot agree on a plan, the commission would enter into the redistricting process. Four of the seven members of the commission, including two Democrats, would have to approve the new districts by Oct. 31.

If the commission fails to reach agreement on the Congressional map, state lawmakers will get another try. They’d need to come up with a map that gets 60% approval but only one-third of Democrats, the minority party, would have to agree to make it a ten-year map.

If all else fails, the majority can create a map but it would only last for four years.

As if the redistricting process isn’t complicated enough, there’s another wrinkle this time around. The census data needed to draw lines is not yet available due to the pandemic. It’s expected later this month.

Ohio’s current maps have been criticized for being among the most gerrymandered in the nation.

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