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Government/Politics

Ohio Redistricting Commission members tell Supreme Court why they shouldn't be held in contempt

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Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the commission to file an explanation for why it should not be held in contempt for failing to follow a previous order.

The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the Commission to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court for not approving new House and Senate maps last Thursday. Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman responded about 20 minutes before the 12 noon deadline.

The legislative leaders also say in their response, through their lawyer Phillip Strach, that not only is a contempt finding inappropriate", but also: "In any event, it may be unnecessary as the Speaker and the President anticipate the Commission will vote on a new plan this week."

The Commission responded separately through its lawyer, saying no member should be held in contempt because "a new plan could be approved in the coming days" but also that "it appears each member acted in good faith in an effort to comply timely with the Court’s order".

Also responding separately are the panel's two Democrats, co-chair Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Allison Russo. They had proposed maps last Thursday but Republicans on the Commission rejected them.

And the three Republicans on the panel who hold statewide office - Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor Keith Faber and Secretary of State Frank LaRose - also responded separately, saying they shouldn't be individually liable because the panel "could not do in just ten days what it was previously unable to do in four months: adopt an Ohio General Assembly district plan that it, and this Court, will approve."

During a commission meeting Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Auditor Keith Faber (R-Ohio) revived talks to come up with a proposed state legislative district plan.

Just days earlier, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said he did not believe it was possible to draw maps that would follow the Ohio Constitution and the court's orders.

Instead, the commission rejected maps proposed by Democrats and adjourned, allowing the court's deadline to expire.

Republican Justice Pat DeWine said in a statement Tuesday if those contempt proceedings did go forward he would recuse himself, since his father Gov. Mike DeWine would be among those facing consequences.

"In the event that a contempt proceeding is instituted pursuant to R.C. 2705.02 to impose sanctions on the individual members of the redistricting commission, I would recuse myself from that separate proceeding," DeWine said in a text message.

But DeWine also noted that he would not be stepping away from the redistricting cases, though his father is a named defendant. The justice has said his father is one of seven members of the commission and has no direct personal stake in what district lines look like.

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