(The Center Square) – A day after the state’s first primary and two days before a court deadline, the Ohio Redistricting Commission met Wednesday in its fifth attempt at drawing state legislative district maps that are constitutional.
The commission voted down a Democratic proposal to bring back independent map makers and failed to set another meeting date in the face of an Ohio Supreme Court-ordered Friday deadline.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, and House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, both left the commission and appointed Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, and Rep. Jeff LaRe, R-Pickerington, respectively.
With its new members, the commission debated invoices and funding in addition to defeating the motion to bring back independent map makers. With no new maps, or prospects before Friday to redraw last month's GOP-drawn maps, the court could impose the maps that will be used.
“This commission and the people of the state have really invested a lot of work and funds in the work product of the independent map drawers,” said Commission Co-Chairman Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron.
McColley objected, saying the commission already employs the most-qualified people to develop state legislative maps.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose said April 20 was the deadline for maps to have been implemented to meet federal and state election unless the General Assembly would adjust state law.
LaRose said he would need assurance from legislative leaders that emergency legislation would be enacted to consider new maps.
“Unless the legislative leaders are willing to call lawmakers back in session tomorrow to pass emergency legislation, I can’t see any way we can adopt new maps,” LaRose said.
Sykes said if the commission was concerned about statutory deadlines, why would the commission squander the 22 days the court gave the commission to develop maps.
“All we need to do is to pass a constitutional map that will be accepted by the court, and we can move forward,” Sykes said.
The commission voted along party lines, 5-2, not to bring back the map makers.
The Ohio Supreme Court called the commission’s fourth attempt to draw state district maps a sideshow and said months of spending taxpayer dollars has the state back where it started more than six months ago.
The court, in a 4-3 ruling, set a May 6 deadline for new maps that do not violate a 2015 constitutional amendment approved by voters that says the commission must try to avoid favoring one party over another.
Also, a federal court gave the Ohio Redistricting Commission until May 28 to draw state maps that meet a court order, or it will implement a previously rejected map so the state can hold an Aug. 2 primary.
The three-judge panel, voting 2-1, said it would impose the commission’s third set of maps because the state had started preparing to use those maps before they were declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
“Any election conducted on maps that have already been judged as unconstitutional is not a fair election,” said House Minority Leader Allison Russo, R-Upper Arlington.