Ohio map-making panel sees new proposals as deadline nears
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Republican member of Ohio’s powerful redistricting panel put forth a compromise map of new state legislative districts late Wednesday, within hours of a midnight deadline.
GOP Senate President Matt Huffman’s revised district boundaries were made available on the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s website, as was an amended map submitted by the panel’s Democratic co-chair, state Sen. Vernon Sykes.
It was still unclear whether one of the maps had enough time before the deadline passed to garner the necessary bipartisan support to last for 10 years, as the once-per-decade process envisions. Without Democrats’ buy-in, the maps would last just four years.
Earlier Wednesday, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, a member of the commission, touted “significant progress” happening in 11th-hour negotiations during an hourslong recess that lasted most of the day.
DeWine told reporters the objective remained to come up with a map both parties could agree on. However, he said he would prefer arriving at the goal even if it meant missing the constitutional deadline.
“I think it’s going to be difficult to get it tonight, but discussions are certainly continuing,” he told reporters. “But I think there’s been significant progress made today. We’re getting down to very serious discussions about what is important.”
Sykes said earlier in the day that his hopes for a compromise were waning, but that he would keep trying.
“To have a bipartisan plan, you need the will to do it, and I don’t see that at this point,” he said.
He said he had spoken to all four Republican commission members and was given “no indication that they would support” maps Democrats have brought forward as an alternative to those offered by the GOP. Republicans’ map of Ohio’s 99 House districts was given an F grade by one anti-gerrymandering group.
Only two of the panel’s five Republicans would need to side with Democrats to accomplish the 4-3 vote needed for a 10-year map. The commission’s GOP members are DeWine, House Speaker Bob Cupp, Senate President Matt Huffman, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Auditor Keith Faber.
Public statements by LaRose and Faber have suggested they might be amenable to supporting maps also favored by Sykes and the panel’s other Democrat, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, his daughter.
Ohio Republican Chair Bob Paduchik weighed in on the wrangling Tuesday with a statement that suggested the political divide remains wide.
“The biggest lie in Ohio politics today is the notion that the Ohio Citizens’ Redistricting Commission is a group of voting rights activists instead of a Democrat advocacy organization,” he said in a statement. “The next biggest lie is the idea their ‘unity map’ is anything other than a Democrat gerrymander of Ohio legislative districts.”
Ohio is using a new redistricting process for the first time this year that was approved by voters through state ballot issues in 2015 and 2018. The new system is meant to combat partisan gerrymandering, or the drawing of districts for partisan gain.
The Ohio electorate is roughly 53% Republican and 45% Democratic, experts estimate. Yet, under the current GOP-drawn maps, Republicans control 64% of Ohio House seats and 75% of Ohio Senate seats.
An Associated Press analysis found that Ohio’s maps are among the nation’s most gerrymandered, during a period when Republicans won more seats than would have been expected based on the percentage of votes they received.
The separate process for redrawing congressional districts is running concurrently to the legislative mapmaking process. Ohio lost one congressional seat due to lagging population growth recorded in the 2020 Census, which will give the state 15 rather than 16 seats for the next 10 years.
This story has been updated to correct that the panel has not yet approved Ohio’s redistricting map. The Associated Press erroneously published the wrong version of the story.