The commission is required to adopt maps that meet constitutional muster — mirroring the partisan breakdown of the state — after the Ohio Supreme Court previously rejected multiple maps as gerrymandered in favor of Republicans.
The commission’s work was previously stalled over a dispute among GOP leadership on who would represent them as co-chair of the commission. Before Wednesday’s meeting, they agreed to a compromise that saw Ohio Auditor Keith Faber sworn in as co-chair. Democrats followed by naming Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood to lead their negotiations.
On the Senate side, the map unveiled Wednesday would create 20 strong Republican districts, three Republican tossups, 18 strong Democratic districts and two Democratic tossups. On the House side, there would be 59 strong Republican districts, three Republican tossups, 31 strong Democratic districts and eight Democratic tossups
Map author Senate Majority Leader Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, said his map’s foremost priority was to split as few communities as possible. In the state, his proposal splits only one city.
“That is something that should be viewed as a superior requirement,” McColley said, arguing that the commission will ultimately have to compromise some aspects of the constitution’s guidelines on districts in order to create a map.
House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said her primary concern was with creating a state legislative map that is representative of Ohioan’s voting behaviors over the past 10 years — a requirement that is also placed by the constitution, and was, in part, behind the Ohio Supreme Court’s previous knockdowns.
Under the commission’s previous iteration, it was determined that the state’s proportionality, based on the past 10 years of election cycles, was 54% Republican to 46% Democrat — a ratio that is constitutionally required to be reflected by the state’s legislative map.
“There seems to be no indication at this point that this commission plans to actually come to a constitutional map that meets all technical requirements and the proportionality requirement — they always want to forget that part of it — and that’s disappointing,” Russo said to reporters after the meeting. “It speaks to how this process is rigged from the beginning.”
There’s an argument on what the 10-year lookback period might actually be. Republicans argued that the 2022 general election, in which Republicans performed strongly, should be used. Democrats argued that there isn’t sufficient data from the election to actually use it.
Russo argued that, even with an updated lookback period, the proportionality would look something like 56% Republican districts to 43% Democratic districts. Faber argued that the Republican percentage would be a few points higher than that.
The commission’s next meetings are scheduled in various regions of the state before the end of the month, which will allow more Ohioans to weigh in. The first meeting for public input is on Sept. 22 at Deercreek State Park in Mt. Sterling; followed by a meeting Sept. 25 at the Punderson Manor Lodge and Conference Center in Newbury Twp.; and the final is on Sept. 26 in the Ohio Statehouse. Each meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.