Feb 9, 2022 - Politics

Ohio mapmakers head back to the drawing board

Illustration of the state of Ohio with red and blue districts inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Between missed deadlines, partisan votes and gerrymandered draft maps, the Ohio redistricting process has gone less than ideally so far.

  • The latest Ohio Supreme Court ruling that the revised state legislative maps need to be re-drawn again shows there is still more work to be done as the primary election fast approaches.

Why it matters: Without official maps in place, Ohioans don't know which legislative districts they'll be voting in and who they will be represented by starting in 2023.

  • Likewise, candidates don't know which district boundaries to campaign within.

The time crunch: Early voting for the May primary election is supposed to begin in five weeks for military and overseas voters.

Catch up quick: The redistricting commission passed new state legislative maps last year, but the court threw them out and ordered members to try again.

  • The Republican majority redrew the maps without support from Democrats and the court ruled this week they, too, are unconstitutional.
  • With the commission headed back to the drawing board, Ohio redistricting is starting to feel like Groundhog Day.

Between the lines: The foremost issue continues to be proportionality, or the number of Democratic- and Republican-leaning seats a map is expected to produce based on Ohio's voting breakdown.

  • Republicans win around 55% of the vote in Ohio Statehouse elections, but the court has dinged the maps drawn to give the GOP a higher percentage of seats.

Meanwhile, a separate process for redrawing the 15 congressional districts for the U.S. House of Representatives is similarly in flux.

  • The court rejected a GOP-drawn map giving the party up to a 13-2 seat advantage and a new one is being drawn.

💭 Our thought bubble: The redistricting reforms enacted by voters were designed to encourage maps drawn in a bipartisan, transparent and timely manner.

  • The process included contingency plans should this system go awry, apparently for good reason.
  • In a paradoxical way, these back-and-forth and at times chaotic developments show the reforms are working as designed — to prevent gerrymandering, no matter what it takes.

The bottom line: If the May 3 primary election is happening as scheduled, which one legislative leader says is the plan, mapmakers have to move quickly.


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