By a split vote, Ohio Redistricting Commission adopts third set of state legislative maps

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The Republican-drawn plan for new legislative district maps was the third attempt to create maps that comply with the constitution and orders from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Because the maps didn’t have bipartisan buy-in, they’d only be in effect for four years.

The new state legislative district maps create 54 Republican and 45 Democratic seats in the House and 18 Republican and 15 Democratic seats in the Senate.

However, Democratic commissioners argued that the number of Democratic seats that were in competitive margins put the party at a disadvantage in many potential House and Senate races.

According to partisan index data, 16 of the 45 Democratic House seats and 6 of the 15 Democratic Senate seats are within a 3% margin between Democratic and Republican voters.

While Republican and Democratic commissioners argued over which margin should be considered a competitive district, House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said the main point is that none of the Republican districts face those type of potential toss-up races.

“Whether we’re using a threshold of — 50.5, 50.8, 51.5, 52 — the important piece of this is that you have zero Republican districts that fall within those ranges,” Russo said.

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Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) said the imbalance of competitive Democratic districts disobeys the supreme court’s order to create symmetry with the districts.

“We appreciate the idea that you maybe embrace the concept that you need to comply with the proportionality guidelines. But the court also indicated that symmetry was also important, and we don’t believe that you’ve complied with it. We believe that you’ve made that worse,” Sykes said.

While Faber joined the Democratic members in voting against the maps, it was not for the same reasons.

“This is a constitutional process and I’ve consistently expressed my concerns with the maps, including the Democrat-proposed map we saw last week, that violate the constitution with unnecessary splits and by compromising compactness to achieve a specific ratio,” said Faber.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) expressed the urgency in passing the newly proposed maps as soon as possible, citing the concerns raised by Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio) to approve maps quickly in order to hold a May 3 primary.

“All of the other options are bad. Two primaries? Bad idea because I happened to suggest it and people let me know. Pushing back the primary? People are not in favor of that also. I think at this point a while ago, days matter. At this point, hours matter,” said Huffman.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on February 7 that the second round of state legislative maps approved by the redistricting commission on January 22 was also unconstitutional.

That map created 57 Republican and 42 Democratic districts in the Ohio House and 20 Republican districts and 13 Democratic districts in the Ohio Senate.

The supreme court said that map did not abide by the constitutional requirement to reflect Ohio’s voter preference by party, which averages out to about 54% Republican and 46% Democratic based on the past 10 years of statewide election results.

The third round of state legislative district maps will once again be reviewed by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.