CLEVELAND — Five days after the Ohio Redistricting Commission was handed the job of drawing the state’s new congressional districts, they’ve yet to even schedule a meeting as they face an Oct. 31 deadline. That’s why Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose emailed them all Monday night "the clock is ticking, we are on the clock to use sort of the draft analogy.”
The seven-member commission is made up of Republicans LaRose, Governor Mike DeWine, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman along with Democratic members State Senator Vernon Sykes and State Rep. Emilia Sykes. The congressional districts were handed to them after the state legislature missed a September 30 deadline.
The last time they were together was when they voted along party lines for four-year state legislative maps that are being challenged in court as LaRose and DeWine warned at the time they would. LaRose vowing at the time that when they were handed the task of redrawing the congressional seats as he was certain they would, things would be different.
“It is not going to work this way next time,” he warned. When asked Tuesday about that he said “you're right I wasn't happy with the process last time and I'll tell you that I was working in good faith to try to reach that middle ground but one of the great frustrations that I had is that not everybody else was working in that same spirit of collegiality.”
“With the last process, the state legislative redistricting process, the two sides were not as far apart as they thought they were but I believe that in many cases some of my colleagues on the commission had long ago given up on the prospect of finding that bi-partisan compromise and my hope is that we can keep everybody's head in the game this time and stay focused on really the task that Ohio voters have asked us to do and that is to stay at the table, to roll up our sleeves and to find that bipartisan compromise, that middle ground compromise that is necessary to draw a ten year set of maps," LaRose said.
LaRose and auditor Keith Faber were working with Senator Sykes and Representative Sykes to come to a compromise before things fell apart. News 5 asked LaRose if the colleagues he spoke of then were, by process of elimination, Republicans Cupp and Hoffman.
“You know what in a seven-member process like this I'm not going to start naming names and calling out my colleagues but I can tell you that not everybody was as dedicated to finding that bipartisan compromise. As you mentioned, the auditor and I were and we need that spirit of bipartisanship to come to bear when it comes to this congressional process.“
Whatever the end result he said someone will be unhappy.
“Let's be very honest about this, this is high stakes, very high visibility political process and both the Republican party and the Democratic party and 12 million Ohioans care deeply about how this process works out but a good negotiation is one where both sides walk away from the table just a little bit dissatisfied right? Like when you meet in the middle there's always going to be that compromise that has to happen and certainly, that's the spirit I bring to this. I hope that my colleagues, as we begin this new congressional redistricting process will bring that same spirit to the negotiating table," he said.
As for maps, LaRose says he’s “started drafts and started to put some ideas down on the screen certainly not a complete plan but a first draft set of ideas. I know that other members of the commission are as well. What I'm asking them to is get their ideas together and let's sit down and compare.”
“And by the way, a lot of Ohioans have submitted their own ideas so we're evaluating those and looking at those great ideas. In short order we need to have a commission meeting, we need to talk about a schedule, we need to talk about the rules for the commission and all of those kinds of things and that's why I sent that email to my colleagues just last night asking them let's get together and let's start talking about this because there's a lot of work to do.”