COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With less than 24 hours left to spare before its court-ordered deadline, the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved a set of state legislative maps that had already been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In a 4-3 vote Thursday evening, the seven-member redistricting commission approved a proposal to resubmit its third set of maps outlining Ohio’s state legislative districts. The maps, previously submitted on Feb. 24, were struck down as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in March.
Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township), who recently joined the commission to replace House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), said the commission didn’t have much choice but to approve its third set of maps, as the Feb. 24 proposals have already been stored in many boards of elections across Ohio.
“We’re only talking about the 2022 election — so there’s more work for the commission to do we gotta look at the next election cycle so we’re not done yet,” LaRe said.
Republican Auditor Keith Faber joined the two Democratic members of the commission in voting against the proposed maps.
The commission rejected a proposal by Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) to submit the set of maps drawn by independent mapmakers, who were previously brought in to assist the commission in its process.
“That’s not a fair election, and I think that is the biggest concern I have — not having a fair and free election but also disenfranchising voters that don’t have confidence that their vote matters,” Russo said.
Thursday’s meeting was the second time the commission convened since the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the members on April 14 to submit a new proposal by 9 a.m. on Friday, May 6.
The proposed maps, if approved by the court, would give Republicans a 54-45 district advantage in the House and 18-15 district advantage in the Senate. Opponents argued the GOP districts would both be competitive in elections, while 19 House and seven Senate districts for the Democrats are competitive — which opponents said could give Republicans a supermajority in the Ohio General Assembly.
While commissioners adopted the Feb. 24 set of maps, voter advocacy groups’ condemnations of gerrymandering echoed throughout the room.
Jen Miller, executive director with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said the commission’s actions are disturbing.
“I don’t think that members of this commission could possibly be more contemptuous of the Ohio constitution, Ohio voters and the Ohio Supreme Court,” Miller said.
Should the commission’s proposal receive the court’s blessing, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose would be free to start plans for the second primary election, which lawmakers have said will take place no later than Aug. 2.
However, should the court stick with its previous ruling and deem the proposal unconstitutional, a three-judge federal court hesitantly presented a solution.
In a late March ruling, the federal court set a deadline of May 28 for Ohio to have a constitutional redistricting plan in place, or the third set of maps — which the commission approved Thursday — would be put in place.