Ohio Commission Backs Congressional Map Favoring Republicans

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Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved a congressional district map Wednesday that would create 10 safe Republican seats, three safe Democratic seats and two toss-ups.

The 5–2 party-line vote sets up another confrontation before the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled in January that a similar previous map advanced by the GOP-controlled legislature violated voter-approved anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Ohio Constitution.

“I can guarantee we will be back here in a couple of weeks” still trying to draw a map that passes constitutional muster, said state Rep. Allison Russo, one of two Democrats on the redistricting panel. She joined state Sen. Vernon Sykes in opposing the GOP plan supported by the commission’s five Republicans, including Gov. Mike DeWine and other top state leaders.

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“A normal response to an order by the state supreme court would be at bare minimum to improve a map,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general who heads national Democrats’ redistricting efforts, said in a statement. “Instead, the Republican Commissioners prevented the vast majority of Ohioans from participating in the process, shut out their Democratic colleagues, and again drew a gerrymandered congressional map behind closed doors.”

Democrats already are disputing a state legislative map. The Ohio Supreme Court court has ordered commissioners to respond to Democrats’ objections by Thursday.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder heads a Democratic redistricting effort.

Commission Republicans said they were justified in drawing a map favoring their party because it would only be valid for four years. The Ohio Constitution requires bipartisan support for a 10-year map.

Republicans turned back amendments to increase the number of congressional seats favoring Democrats to six or seven of the state’s 15 districts. Republicans said they wanted to move fast to meet a Friday candidate-filing deadline and to stick with the scheduled May 3 primaries.

“What we all want it is to have the election,” state Senate President Matt Huffman said.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has told legislative leaders it might already be too late to print ballots and program voting machines in time to hold the scheduled primary. However, it’s up to the legislature to change the date of the primary and lawmakers have made no move yet to do so.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com

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