COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s political mapmaking body continued work Monday ahead of a midnight deadline to reach a compromise on constitutionally sound boundaries for state legislative districts.
The seven-member, GOP-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission has tried and failed three times to create maps that satisfy a constitutional ban against gerrymandering, or drawing districts to favor one party.
The state Supreme Court rejected the previous three sets of Ohio House and Senate maps drawn by the panel, ruling in a 4-3 vote each time that the plans were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to unduly favor Republicans.
This time around, the commission is being helped helped by mediators from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and a pair of independent mapmakers. Also for the first time, the process is happening live, with mapmakers’ work — including every computer adjustment no matter how tiny — being streamed online. The two independent mapmakers worked through the weekend.
Ohioans overwhelmingly supported a 2015 constitutional amendment that mandated the redistricting commission at least attempt to avoid partisan favoritism and to proportionally distribute districts to reflect Ohio’s 54% Republican, 46% Democratic split.
The latest version of House maps are constitutionally proportional, and include three competitive districts that lean Republican and three that lean Democrat, mapmaker Mike McDonald of the University of Florida said Monday.
The Senate map is also proportional, with two competitive districts for Democrats and none for Republicans.
“We’ve looked at this hard and I don’t think we’re going to be able to improve on that and keep proportionality,” McDonald said.
Meanwhile, a panel of federal judges raised a new option Friday to keep the state’s May 3 primary alive: shrinking Ohio’s robust early voting period.
The panel ordered Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose — who is also a redistricting commission member — to pinpoint by Monday whether making such an adjustment would violate any state or federal laws.