Ohio's legislative map-drawing commission will meet Sept. 13, but deadline already looms
The seven-member panel of politicians that will draw maps for Ohio's state lawmakers hasn't met this year, but is set to get together for the first time Sept. 13. But the state's chief elections official, who also sits on that board, is saying time is already short.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose wrote in a letter to his fellow members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission that final legislative maps should be approved by Sept. 22. He calculated that date by working backwards from the Dec. 20 filing deadline for the March primary and allowing for the possibility of lawsuits.
Key dates outlined in LaRose's letter:
- Sept. 22: final legislative maps should be approved (which gives time for litigation)
- Oct. 23: last possible date for maps to be approved
- Nov. 6: last possible date for new maps to be provided to local boards of election
- Nov. 20: last possible date for candidates to move to new districts to run in them
- Dec. 20: filing deadline for candidates for the March 2024 primary
The commission includes the governor, the auditor and the secretary of state, along with two legislators from each party from the House and Senate. The commission's website lists the roster as Gov. Mike DeWine, LaRose and Auditor Keith Faber, along with legislators Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Twp.), Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington).
Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine set the date of the first commission meeting this year for Sept. 13. That's the date commission co-chairs LaRe and Antonio had picked in a letter they sent a few days ago. But Attorney General Dave Yost determined that DeWine had to set the first meeting, not the co-chairs.
"He's telling us that we need to get our work done by Sept. 22. Now, I don't know; that seems ambitious," said Antonio, referring to LaRose's letter. "With the governor calling the meeting, I'm hoping it will be on [Sept.] 13 because we really need to get this started as soon as possible. The clock is definitely ticking."
The current maps could be resubmitted, though they were found to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Under those maps that were used for legislative elections last year, Republicans gained four seats in the House and a seat in the Senate, and no Republican incumbents lost. But if the maps are scrapped and redrawn, there will be more Republican members of the legislature who will want to keep their seats. And that could make the process of redrawing those district maps even more challenging for GOP members of the commission.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission, which was created to draw legislative maps with a constitutional amendment in 2015, had its first-ever meeting in August 2021. The legislative maps Republicans drew and approved were rejected as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court five times, but the third set of maps that had been submitted were implemented by a federal court in May 2022.