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Reaction pours in after Ohio Redistricting Commission votes on party lines for 4-year maps

New state senate districts
New state senate districts
Posted at 4:28 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 17:47:12-04

COLUMBUS — Reaction continues to pour in following the Ohio Redistricting Commission's early morning vote Thursday along party lines to adopt the legislative maps proposed by Republicans. A move that will result in those maps being in place for only four years and not 10.

"It is a sad day but it doesn't mean we should give up," said Catherine Turcer, Executive Director of Common Cause Ohio. "We understand that we're taking on raw political power and whether it's the Democrats that are in charge or the Republicans that are in charge it is extremely hard not to use a tool to make sure that your guys get elected."

Turcer was among those who fought in 2015 to get the Ohio Constitution changed in an effort to create fair legislative districts, something she argues did not happen.

That process was to include "representational fairness." Democrats argued that meant maps that would reflect the 54-46 split favoring Republicans that was reflected in the vote for statewide office over the last decade.

Instead, Republicans argued they achieved that looking at the fact Republicans won 81% of statewide races in that time.

"They used shall we say some pretty fuzzy math to explain what they were doing," Turcer said.

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes said before the vote "we can argue all day about the legislative intent but I don't have to do that because I can talk to my co-chair who was a part of writing this and he will share with you that the proportionality or representational fairness is what he meant and that is why it's in the constitution."

The party-line vote included yes votes from Republican Governor Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, both acknowledging this will land in the courts on constitutional grounds.

"Along with the secretary of state I will vote to send this matter forward but it will not be the end of it," DeWine said. "We know that this matter will be in court. I'm not judging the bill one way or another that's up to a court to do. What I am sure in my heart is that this committee could have come up with a bill that was much more clearly, clearly constitutional and I'm sorry we did not do that."

"I agree with Governor Mike DeWine, there are serious constitutional concerns with these hyper-partisan, unfair maps," said former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder who is chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in a statement.

"Ohio has been one of the most gerrymandered states in the country for the past decade. Yet the state legislative maps adopted by Republicans in the dark of night are somehow worse still. They utterly fail to meet either the letter or the spirit of the 2015 reform law. The proposed maps fail to reflect the makeup of the state as a whole and dilute the political power of communities of color," Holder said.

Along those lines, Representative Thomas West (D-Canton) President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus said “these maps do not reflect Ohio’s statewide voting preferences, do not provide for fair representation, and do not give an adequate voice for Black and brown Ohioans. This plan highlights the majority’s blatant disregard of the Constitution and the will of the voters," West said. “It would seem that all the talk of wanting 10-year, bipartisan maps was not met with action or real intention from the majority party members of the Commission.”

Among the districts created is Senate District 27 in Northeast Ohio that stretches from Geauga to Western Cuyahoga counties down the whole west side of Summit to Stark counties.

"A lot of times you can use your eyeballs to figure out that things are just not right and that's really all it takes with these maps," said Catherine Turcer.

LaRose did not name names but he admonished those on the commission who failed to act in a bipartisan fashion.

"Not enough members of this commission wanted to come along with that effort," LaRose said. "This map has many shortcomings but they pale in comparison to the shortcomings of this process, it didn't have to be this way."

"Some of us worked in good faith in a bi-partisan way to try to get a compromise, there are members of this committee who I do not believe worked in good faith to try to reach that compromise but here we are," LaRose said adding that they are likely to be back here again in October when they will likely be called upon to draw the state's congressional district map.

"And when we are," he said, "this process will be different it is not going to work this way next time."