File-Ohio Redistricting Hearing

Areeqe Hammad, of Cleveland, testifies at the first public hearing of the Ohio Redistricting Commission at Cleveland State University, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Cleveland.

(The Center Square) – Ohio Republicans unveiled their version of new state legislative district maps and accepted the proposal as a working document ahead of public hearings this week.

Republicans called the map, which keeps the GOP’s supermajority if election results remain the same, similar to the one proposed by Democrats before the constitutional deadline, and Senate President Matt Huffman said changes after public hearings next week easily could be made.

“These new maps for the Ohio General Assembly are constitutional and compliant with Ohio law,” Huffman, R-Lima, said. “I’m optimistic the Commission will consider these maps as a lawful and reliable path forward for the next decade.”  

The maps are the first for Ohio’s Redistricting Commission, which voters put in place in 2018. The commission consists of Gov. Mike DeWine, State Auditor Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and appointments from House and Senate Republicans and Democrats.

Senate representatives include Huffman, R-Lima, and Vernon Sykes, D-Akron. Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, represent the House.

The group missed its first constitutional deadline of Sept. 1, with Cupp blaming the federal government’s failure to release census information on time. The commission extended its deadline to Sept. 15.

“This is a difficult assignment to complete during a normal year, but with delayed census data, it became a monumental task,” Huffman said. “We look forward to both continued discussions with commission members and ongoing public input, as the deadline to approve the new map proposals approaches.”

Democrats accused Republicans of ignoring racial and demographic data.

“While we are still taking the time to do our due diligence and review the map proposed yesterday, [the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus] sees cause for serious concern,” Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement. “We heard that Republican map drawers were told directly by their legislative leaders not to consider racial and demographic data in creating their maps, and we also heard that their partisan analysis of the maps is still ‘ongoing.’ For Republican leadership to have directed their map drawers to ignore something as fundamentally essential, never mind constitutionally required, as ensuring that Ohio’s communities of color get the political representation they deserve is frankly appalling.”

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.