COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As has happened five times in the past 16 months, the Ohio Redistricting Commission has approved a set of state legislative maps. However, what set Tuesday’s vote apart is there was bipartisan support for the plan, setting up Ohio’s districts for the next decade.
In a unanimous vote, the seven members of the commission approved maps setting up districts for both the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate to be used in next year’s election.
In light of the Ohio Supreme Court ruling five versions of state Senate and House maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered and a court order to redraw districts, the commission raced the past two weeks to finalize a redistricting plan. The fourth and final public comment hearing on a working proposal wrapped up Tuesday before the vote.
An earlier deadline set by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose – Sept. 22 – had come and gone without a vote, some of which was chalked up to infighting among statehouse Republicans over who would co-chair the commission.
Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, one of the Commission’s two chairpeople, said the maps are the result of several hours of negotiations, while Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, the commission’s other chairperson, said she hopes there will be more competitive races with the new maps.
Before the vote, Commission member Rep. Allison Russo, the House minority leader, apologized to the public for the late-minute unveiling of the maps, stating the maps presented Tuesday night have had no public input.
“Tonight, we proved that good faith negotiations with our colleagues from both sides of the aisle guided by the process approved by the voters to draw legislative districts can work exactly the way it was intended to work, when not undermined by out-of-state special interest groups,” Ohio Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) said in a statement after the vote. “I’m very pleased with the bipartisan effort that produced maps that will remain in place for the rest of the decade. I thank all of my fellow commission members for their hard work.”
Since last week, commission members have heard hours of public testimony from citizens, lawmakers, and advocates on proposed maps. Some who testified said the maps are out of sync with what Ohioans want, while others said they think the proposed maps achieve fair districts.
The commission will now file the maps with the Ohio Supreme Court by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Petitioners in the court challenge that sparked the court order have one week to file objections, and the commission has one week after that to reply.
The commission will meet again Friday to discuss any technical amendments, but barring any unforeseen changes or court rulings, the maps are official for the next ten years.