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Government/Politics

Republicans on Ohio Redistricting Commission revive talks on new state legislative maps

CUPP SYKES CONGRESSIONAL MAPMAKING HEARING
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), co-chairs of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, talking during a commission meeting on February 22, 2022.

Just days after allowing a court-ordered deadline to expire and facing possible contempt of court, Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission are expressing a change of heart on adopting new state House and Senate district maps.

The commission met on Tuesday to begin work on drawing new congressional district lines. But, when asked if there was other business to discuss, Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) reiterated his stance on creating new state legislative lines; that the commission had an obligation to adopt constitutional and court-compliant maps.

The commission had met on Thursday, just hours before the court's deadline of midnight. They rejected maps drawn by Democrats and adjourned without any Republican-drawn maps being proposed or approved.

On Friday, the court ordered the Commission to show why they shouldn't be held in contempt for ignoring the deadline.

"This is a question of following the law, the rule of law, respect for law and I again would want to state that that's where we should head," said DeWine.

What followed DeWine's comments was a shift in tone from other commissioners, such as Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who said staff is working on coming up with new House and Senate maps. He had said last Thursday it was not possible to adopt new maps that followed the constitution and the order of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Huffman says the additional time explains the difference between his comments on Thursday and Tuesday.

"You know, starting from a whole new map, new constitutional concepts -- with asymmetry and things like that. So it is, I think, with some of the additional time we can get a product that the court will approve of," says Huffman.

Auditor Keith Faber (R-Ohio) expressed his sense of urgency on the topic by asking for the commission to meet again the next two days straight to continue getting updates on the work being done for new state legislative maps.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said the leaders will attempt to set a new meeting for Wednesday for the "dual purpose" of creating new state legislative and congressional maps.

"I'm glad to see the change of heart," says Jen Miller, League of Women Voters of Ohio executive director. "Because ultimately, what matters more than anything else is that voters get the districts that they deserve that really serve them rather than political operatives interests."

Ohio does not have finalized district lines for the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, and Congress. Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio) has said it is crucial for the commission to adopt new maps as soon as possible to give election officials enough time to prepare for the May 3 primary and early voting.

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