Feb 22, 2022 - Politics

Ohio redistricting delays put election in jeopardy

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Ohio redistricting process is starting to resemble the big Foucault pendulum at COSI — things are definitely moving, but you have to squint to notice any actual progress.

Driving the news: Having already had state maps rejected twice for gerrymandering, the Ohio Redistricting Commission was under an Ohio Supreme Court-issued deadline to enact new ones by Feb. 17. The deadline passed with no maps in place.

Why it matters: This is no pointless political drama. Your community's representation in Columbus and Washington, D.C. over the coming decade is at stake. Those tasked with helping figure it out have repeatedly failed.

State of play: The ball is in the commission's court to approve two state legislative maps and a third for Ohio's delegation to Congress.

Between the lines: The delay is no skin off the backs of the Republican commissioners, who have a 5-2 majority on the commission while contending the mapmaking process is at an "impasse."

  • Every map rejection has merely given the commission's GOP majority an opportunity to try again.

The intrigue: The Supreme Court isn't pleased with the latest missed deadline.

Would justices really issue that penalty? It's possible, though the Court hasn't always demanded legislative leaders follow its mandates.

Meanwhile, the redistricting delays may impede the May 3 election from being conducted on time.

Reality check: Even if new maps were magically made official today, counties would have just three weeks to prepare the first batch of absentee ballots.

  • Secretary of State Frank LaRose is all but openly begging for lawmakers to push back the election date.
  • "We can't just flip a switch and hold a primary," he told fellow members of the redistricting commission last week.

What's next: The redistricting commission has to simultaneously settle the "impasse" on Statehouse maps and separately hash out a new congressional district map.

Grades for new 2022 congressional maps, by state
Note: The Ohio map graded was the one rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court in January. Data: Princeton Gerrymandering Project with RepresentUs; Table: Axios Visuals

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