Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp (left), R-Lima, with state Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, answers questions about the state's redistricting process during a news conference after the commission's meeting Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.

(The Center Square) – Ohio’s new redistricting commission missed its first constitutional deadline for redrawing legislative maps, and one of the group’s co-chairs laid the blame at the feet of the federal government.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said late data from the U.S. Census Bureau was the reason the Ohio Redistricting Commission missed the Sept. 1 deadline to present its first maps and failed to hold three public hearings on those maps.

“Had there been more time available to work with the data and draw the maps there would probably be more opportunity for public discussions, but we’re working with the situation we have,” Cupp said Tuesday when the commission met.

The commission enacted an extension until Sept. 15 but did not set a date for another meeting.

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, a commission member, repeatedly asked for the commission to present maps.

“At what point will the commission offer these maps,” Sykes said.

Cupp said the commission will not draw a map, but rather he asked House and Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses to submit maps. He said Republicans are in the process of creating a map.

“I think in this case, being careful and deliberate is a virtue when we’re doing something this significant that will have an impact, hopefully, for at least a decade,” Cupp said.

Sykes said the commission could have made an effort to produce a map before Wednesday’s deadline, despite delays.

“There could have been an attempt to meet this deadline despite the delays in census data, but Republicans chose not to,” Sykes said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s disappointing that the Commission failed to meet its Constitutional mandate after hundreds of Ohioans did their part and came out to testify on the importance of fair maps for our state. If the Commission isn’t going to act today, it is imperative that it delivers fair maps and better representation by releasing and approving a bipartisan map before the next deadline of Sept. 15.”

Ohio’s Senate Democratic Caucus submitted a map to the commission Tuesday, but Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said the map did not take incumbent senators into consideration. He said the state constitution requires senators with three-and-a-half years remaining in their terms to be considered by new maps.

“House and Senate Democrats are taking this process seriously, with the Senate caucus even releasing their own draft map,” Sykes said in a statement following the meeting. “But the fact is this: Ohio’s constitution requires the Commission to release a map by September 1 – not a caucus or an interest group.”

The maps will be good for 10 years if Republicans and Democrats agree. If not, they will last only four years.

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.