VOICES: The Constitution worked

No one expected the Constitutional Amendment passed by voters in 2015 to be faced with such an extraordinary challenge for its first assignment.

The new Ohio Redistricting Commission, formerly the Apportionment Board, was created with new rules and new members. The Commission immediately faced a historic challenge.

COVID-19 delayed critical U.S. Census data by more than four months, significantly delaying the map making process for the 132 legislative districts of the Ohio General Assembly.

Knowing this, I proposed asking Ohio voters to grant a thirty-day extension of the deadline so the Redistricting Commission would have additional time to negotiate an agreement for ten-year maps.

Unfortunately, that proposal was undermined by special interest groups last spring who convinced democrats to reject the idea.

So in the end, right at the September 15th deadline, the Commission approved maps for the next four years instead of ten.

It was a party line vote. All five republicans voted yes, and both democrats voted no.

The Constitutional Amendment approved by voters requires two members of the minority party to approve ten-year maps, so if both democrats had voted yes, the vote for ten-year maps would’ve been unanimous.

ExploreLegislative redistricting: Has the experiment failed?

Instead, the pandemic partnered with partisan special interests to prevent a ten-year agreement. Even so, the Constitution worked by providing a path forward for the next four years.

In reality, the Republicans and Democrats were close to an agreement.

We listened to what people had to say at the public hearings around the state, and worked with our democrat colleagues to make changes.

For example, since the 1970′s the City of Dayton has been divided between multiple House and Senate Districts. The 2021 map unifies Dayton in just two House Districts. This is the minimum allowed due to Dayton’s new census numbers. The entire city is now within one Senate District.

For the first time in decades, the Senate District that contains Dayton remains entirely inside Montgomery County. This was a request from legislative Democrats.

Montgomery County is also home to a new very competitive House District, which now leans Democrat.

Not one single contiguous city, township or village in Montgomery County is split, except for Dayton which as pointed out above, has a population too large to be in a single House District.

The Constitution encourages compactness and limits the division of counties and communities based on population.

Special interest groups want you to accept the concept of representational fairness. In other words, they’ll tell you what is fair. Representational fairness is just a sanitized term for gerrymandering. There will always be districts that lean toward the Democratic Party and districts that lean toward the Republican Party —that’s geography, not gerrymandering.

There’s a fixation driven by special interests that these indexes, these percentages, these numbers determine everything. That is patently false.

I’ve served as city council president, as a state representative and now as President of the Ohio Senate, and I can confidently tell you that the candidate, campaigns and issues are far more important.

Change is hard, especially when it involves a new process right before a major election year.

There will always be a partisan narrative coming from advocacy groups that refer to themselves as non-partisan.

But because of you, the Ohio voter, the process worked.

ExploreRead the Ohio Citizens' Redistricting Commission's critique of the new maps.

Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is the Ohio Senate President.