Hearings Allow Ohioans To Weigh In On Redistricting Process

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Now that the new Census data is out, new boundaries will be drawn for Ohio’s 99 state House districts and 33 Senate districts.

That job falls to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which will draw these maps under new rules approved by voters that are intended to limit partisan gerrymandering.

But first, the commission is going on a listening tour. It has scheduled 10 public hearings around the state this week, including two in southeast Ohio. Both are on Wednesday: one from 9:30 to 12:30 at Ohio University’s Zanesville campus, and one from 2:30 to 5:30 at Rio Grande Community College.

Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said this is an important opportunity for the public to weigh in on how they want these maps to be drawn.

“The general public demanded that we have a better process for making legislative maps that hopefully would result in maps that really serve the people of Ohio and not political interests,” she said. “This is the first chance for people of Ohio to tell mapmakers that they want those reforms to be upheld.”

Miller said anyone who wants to attend the hearings but doesn’t know what to say should simply focus on their own experience.

How has gerrymandering affected them? What would they like their new districts to look like?” she said. “I know throughout southeast Ohio there are lots of little towns and communities that are carved up, not because that’s what’s best for those communities, but because that was the best way to slice and dice districts to guarantee partisan outcomes.”

The redistricting commission has until Sept. 1 to adopt new maps for the state House and Senate districts. Once the maps are drawn, but before they are adopted, the commission must hold at least three public hearings on the proposed new district lines. 

The seven-member commission includes five Republicans and two Democrats. To encourage bipartisanship, the new maps will remain in place for 10 years, until the next Census, if they receive the support of both Democrats. If not, the maps must be redrawn again in four years.

While there will be an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed new maps after they’re drawn, Miller said it’s still important to show up at this first round of public hearings.

“Even if you don’t want to testify,” she said, “just being in the room sends a message to mapmakers that Ohioans want to participate in this process.”