COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Advocates for fair maps and an end to gerrymandering are calling on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to get back to work.
Amid a months-long redistricting battle that has yet to result in maps outlining the state’s legislative districts, about 60 people rallied and marched throughout Downtown Columbus Thursday to urge the seven-member, Republican-majority commission to get back to work.
“I think it’s important to indicate to lawmakers that we’re still listening, we’re still here, we’re paying attention,” Amina Barhumi, who attended Thursday’s protest, said.
Despite orders from the Ohio Supreme Court to draw a fourth set of state legislative maps by May 6 — and pleas from the two Democrats on the commission that the group reconvene — the lawmakers, eight days away from their court-ordered deadline, have yet to gather and draw new maps.
The past four sets of statehouse maps that have been drawn over the last seven months have all been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Hours after the rally, the commission announced that it will meet for its fifth round of map-making on Wednesday, May 4, just two days before the court-ordered deadline.
House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), one of the two co-chairs on the redistricting commission, said in a letter to his Democratic colleagues that reconvening before May 3 would be futile.
“Holding more meetings prior to May 3 would serve no purpose than to further confuse the electorate,” Cupp wrote in a letter.
But Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), who also co-chairs the commission, said that is not an excuse.
“Not acceptable at all — we have 8 days now that would leave us with only two days — with 22 days total using 20 days just wasting it and only having two days left to actually work on a map is unacceptable,” Sykes said in a letter.
Ruth Gillett, of Cuyahoga County, attended Thursday’s protests and condemned the commission members for failing to produce constitutional maps and called on them to bring back the independent mapmakers, whose maps were not used by the commission.
“This redistricting commission has just really not fulfilled their job to provide that,” she said. “So yeah, it’s very frustrating.”
It’s unclear whether a federal court will intervene in the map-drawing process. Ohio will have a second primary because there are no statehouse maps for the May 3 primary.
If there are no maps deemed constitutional by the state court, it has a plan to implement a map and a primary date for Ohio voters when it comes to this year’s election.