Republicans propose new U.S. House district map for Ohio

Credit: Jim Gaines

Credit: Jim Gaines

Republicans made another proposal for a new U.S. House district map on Tuesday, but put off a vote until Wednesday.

The map would create 10 Republican-leaning and five Democratic-leaning districts; but the Republican seats are much safer.

The closest Republican-leaning district – which happens to include the Dayton area – leans to the right by nearly 7%. One Democratic-leaning district does so by less than 5%, and two more by less than 2%, according to map sponsors’ breakdown.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission met Tuesday afternoon, ostensibly to hear more map proposals from the general public. But commission member Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, quickly brought up the new map proposal. He said a motion to adopt the map would wait for the next day.

“I understand that’s the preferred procedure, from the chair,” Huffman said. The committee recessed until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

In the proposed map, District 10, which Rep. Mike Turner-R, Dayton represents at this time, covers Montgomery, Greene and south-central Clark counties. It leans Republican by 53.32% to 46.68% The district would no longer include Fayette County, which would become part of District 15.

District 1 would cover Warren and southeast Hamilton counites, and would lean Democratic by just under 2%.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, objected to carving some racial minority communities out of Hamilton County and attaching them to Warren County, which is 95% white. She asked why Hamilton was not kept whole in one district.

Huffman said lines were drawn to equalize population while keeping districts relatively compact.

“We did not use racial data in drawing these maps,” he said.

Echoing months of previous debate, Democrats said they were not given meaningful opportunities to collaborate on the map proposal, while Republicans denied that was the case.

Commission co-chair state Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, said Democratic legislative staff met with Republicans over the weekend, but were just asked for suggestions instead of being shown a draft.

“The first time we had any indication of what the map, your proposal looks like, was just an hour or so ago,” he said.

Huffman disputed Sykes’ statement, and said Republicans would be glad to consider specific proposals for changes.

In accordance with 2020 census results, Ohio must reduce its U.S. House seats from 16 to 15. Currently Ohio is represented by 12 Republicans and four Democrats.

Intended candidates for U.S. House seats have until March 4 to file for the May 3 primary. An order from Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is also a commission member, instructs congressional candidates that they can file for office in “the most populous county of the district they seek to represent.”

“If the most populous county changes after passage of a new district plan by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, the board of elections where the candidate previously filed will transfer the filing documents to the new most populous county board of elections in the district,” LaRose’s order says.

In November, legislators passed a new U.S. House map, but voting-rights and progressive groups immediately filed suit. The Ohio Supreme Court threw out that map on Jan. 14 as unfairly favoring Republicans, and told the General Assembly to try again.

The General Assembly took no action, however, sending the job back to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which has also worked on several versions of state House and Senate district maps – so far overturned twice by the Supreme Court as also gerrymandered to favor Republicans.

Now the seven-member commission has until March 16 to approve a new congressional map. If it passes with support from the commission’s two Democratic members it would be valid for the next decade, but if passed with only Republican support it would have to be redrawn in four years.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission, established by the 2015 constitutional amendment that sought to reduce partisan gerrymandering, consists of Sykes, co-chair House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima; Huffman, Russo, Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor Keith Faber and LaRose.

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