The new system, which is meant to fight partisan gerrymandering, required the independent commission — which includes two Republicans and two Democrats from the Legislature, as well as three statewide officals — to finish redrawing legislative districts by Wednesday. It sets an initial Sept. 30 deadline for the General Assembly to complete a new map of the state’s congressional districts.
An Associated Press analysis found that Ohio’s maps are among the nation’s most gerrymandered, during a period when Republicans won more seats than would have been expected based on the percentage of votes they received.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose voted for the final map, but he expressed deep disappointment that bipartisan compromise yielding a 10-year map couldn’t be achieved.
“We’ve fallen short,” he said. “Not enough members of this commission wanted to come along with that effort.” He accused unnamed fellow Republicans on the panel of not working in good faith to reach a compromise that could satisfy both parties.
GOP Auditor Keith Faber said he, LaRose and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine spent hours trying to find a map that would draw a unanimous vote. He voted “yes with some apprehension.”
DeWine, likewise, said he was “very, very sorry” at where things landed, yet supported the final boundaries. He suggested both sides — not just majority Republicans — were to blame.
“It’s clear in talking to both sides that there’s not going to be an agreement, and that we could go tomorrow and the next day and the next day and it simply is not going to occur,” he said
Legal challenges are anticipated.
“Fair Districts Ohio is still reviewing the Ohio House and Senate maps and considering next steps, including possible litigation and ballot initiatives in the future," the coalition said in a statement.
Republican Senate President Matt Huffman said the final map will have 62 of 99 Ohio House seats that favor Republicans and 23 of 33 Ohio Senate seats that favor the GOP — down from some earlier maps.
“It takes us much closer to the Democratic plan that was presented,” he said.
The vote followed eight crowded public hearings around the state, where members were pilloried by critics who said the state’s existing legislative and congressional districts aren’t representative. A few witnesses defended the current Republican advantage as fair, given GOP is the state’s dominant party, but they were in a distinct minority.
Ohio’s partisan breakdown is roughly 54% Republicans, 46% Democrats.
The separate process for redrawing congressional districts is running concurrently to the legislative map-making process. Ohio lost one congressional seat due to lagging population growth recorded in the 2020 Census, which will give the state 15 rather than 16 seats for the next 10 years.
This story has been updated to correct that the panel has not yet approved Ohio's redistricting map. The Associated Press erroneously published the wrong version of the story.
FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 file photo, from left to right, Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes, Senate President Matt Huffman, House Speaker Bob Cupp, both Republicans, and Democratic state Sen. Vernon Sykes speak to Auditor Keith Faber at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, ahead of the first meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission on which they all sit. The panel overseeing the redrawing of Ohio’s legislative districts for the coming decade is traveling the state this week to gather input on what the maps should look like. The first of nine public hearings hosted by the new Ohio Redistricting Commission kicks off Monday morning, Aug. 23 in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth, File)
Credit: Julie Carr Smyth
Credit: Julie Carr Smyth