COLUMBUS, Ohio — To use a football analogy, the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission took the field Thursday with time expiring and quickly punted. The commission held its first hearing after being handed the job of drawing the state’s new congressional districts on October 1 and just three days before their own October 31 deadline to do so.
The meeting serves as an opportunity to get the discussion started before the legislature is handed back the task when the deadline passes on Sunday.
"Because it was clear that this body isn't going to be making maps,” said Auditor Keith Faber a commission member.
Testimony this day was limited to those who submitted congressional maps that met new constitutional guidelines for fairness and compactness things that Sam Gresham argued had been overlooked for years but won't be anymore.
"We're serious as a heart attack we're not going away,” said Gresham. “We are going to stay here and you see all of the young people we brought with us? We're growing more."
Geoff Wise in presenting his map said it isn't about how the like-minded urban counties or the like-minded rural counties are grouped but rather about, as we approach Halloween “how do we divvy up the candy?" The areas more likely to swing that will determine the state's congressional makeup. Area's, the argument goes, that have been gerrymandered in the past.
"When I look at gerrymandering it's the manipulation of district lines to manipulate elections,” said Catherine Turcer of Fair Districts Ohio.
For 50 minutes the commission engaged with Turcer who presented the top three maps presented by citizen mapmakers from across the state that she hopes the legislature starting Monday will look at as a launching off point for discussions. She also called on them to bring in experts to talk about the population, about this process so that there's a good understanding of what's happening.
"And not just the state legislators that will be the official map makers but so that we'll better understand the choices that are being made by the state legislature,” she said.