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Redistricting commission will meet just days before deadline

Advocates rally outside Ohio Supreme Court building in Columbus.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Advocates rally outside Ohio Supreme Court building in Columbus.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission is planning to hold its next meeting just two days before a deadline to turn in new state legislative district maps.

The commission, which has a history of missing court-ordered and constitutional deadlines, is required to adopt new House and Senate district maps by May 6.

Commission co-chairs, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), announced the new meeting through a public notice.

Before the announcement, Cupp wrote a letter to Sykes about the May 4 date. Cupp said the reason for a later date is to avoid confusion and workload with the May 3 primary.

"Further, the redistricting process has caused enough confusion among Ohio voters. We already have a split primary. Early voting is at a record low. Holding more meetings prior to May 3 would serve no other purpose than to further confuse the electorate," Cupp wrote.

Early voting is already under way for Ohio's May 3 primary. The May ballot has statewide, congressional, and local races. But state legislative races were removed from the ballot. A second primary for those races will be held on a later date.

For weeks, advocates and Democratic lawmakers have been urging the commission to meet as soon as possible in order to comply with the court-ordered deadline for new maps.

On Thursday, voting rights advocates and community organizations held a rally in Columbus to march from the Ohio Supreme Court to the Ohio Statehouse.

"At the end of the day, no one is above the rule of law. In other words, the Ohio Supreme Court told them to get to work and they need to do it. And we deserve fair elections," said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio.

Cupp's letter was in response to Sykes who asked his co-chair to move up the date of the meeting.

"Two weeks have passed with no meetings. I believe that waiting to hold our first meeting on May 4 is irresponsible and does not adequately respond to the Supreme Court’s order. I ask you to reconsider your plan of not scheduling our first meeting until May 4," Sykes wrote.

The commission has until May 6 to adopt a fifth attempt at state legislative district maps. If new maps are not validated by the Ohio Supreme Court by May 28, the federal court will step in and implement unconstitutional maps drawn by Republicans and adopted by a Republican majority of the commission in February.

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