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Congressional mapmaking in Ohio heads into unknown territory

Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Joint Committee on Congressional Redistricting meets for hearing on four different proposed maps.

The joint committee has wrapped up hearings for new district maps for now.

Dozens of people gathered in the Ohio Statehouse Friday to offer testimony on the proposed district maps that could determine the new Congressional lines in the state for the next 10 years.

The vast majority of people who have voiced their thoughts on the proposals, either in the Joint Committee on Congressional Redistricting or the separate House and Senate committee meetings, have been against the Republican-drawn plans.

The maps proposed by the House and Senate Republican caucuses vary on districts that favor and lean toward the GOP, but both only have two districts that strongly favor Democrats.

Pat Krummrich, Akron resident, testified against the House Republican-drawn map which combines parts of urban counties like Cuyahoga and Summit with rural counties such as Holmes and Hocking, respectively. She told the joint committee that the needs of voters and businesses are different in urban counties compared to rural counties.

Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) argued for the map proposed by the Senate Republican caucus saying their plan sticks to an equal number of votes per district and avoids putting Congressional incumbents in the same districts. McColley made this point in contrast to a map proposed by Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission, a private group, which puts several Congressional incumbents in the same district.

Richard Gunther, Ohio State University professor emeritus of political science, is a member of Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission. He says the reason their map puts so many incumbents in the same district is a result of undoing the current Congressional map where Republicans hold 12 of the 16 districts.

"What you're arguing is, in ordered to protect people who were elected according to a gerrymandered map, we have to respect that in perpetuity. At what point do we actually move to reflecting the preferences the voters of Ohio?" Gunther said.

The joint committee's meeting on Friday appeared to be its last until further notice. Advocates and Democratic lawmakers are concerned the next step will happen outside of the public eye.

The state legislature has until the end of November to approve a plan. A new Congressional map can last 10 years if it receives bipartisan support. However, a four-year map can be approved by a simple majority vote in the House and Senate.

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