Ohio’s governor signs new congressional district map into law
Columbus, Ohio Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed into law a new congressional district map law on Saturday that will be in effect for the next four years, despite objections from Democrats and voting rights groups.
Compared to other proposals from House and Senate lawmakers of both parties, DeWine said in a statement, the Senate legislation he signed “is making the most progress to produce a fair, compact and competitive map.”
Democrats have criticized the Republican-led map-making process as unfair, partisan and hidden in secret. The Senate approved the bill Tuesday, just about 16 hours after the new map was published.
The nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the map a grade of F.
The redistricting procedure cleared the state legislature along partisan lines Thursday after a brisk race in both houses, amid praise from a majority of Republicans and protests from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates.
The new law creates at most three safe Democratic districts out of the 15 new seats in the US House of Representatives in a state where voters are divided into roughly 54% Republicans and 46% Democrats.
Populous Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties — home to Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively, and concentrations of Democratic voters — are divided three ways each. Franklin County, home to Columbus, is divided in two ways, and the western suburbs of Cleveland in Lorraine County are part of an area that extends as far as the Indiana border, about a 3-hour drive away.
However, DeWine said Saturday that the new map “has fewer intercounty and city divisions” than recent proposals and the current congressional map. He said it keeps Lucas, Stark, and Mahoning Valley counties within single congressional districts “for the first time in decades” and keeps Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo “all within the same congressional map for the first time since the 1840s.”
State Representative DJ Soeringen, a Republican, defended the map during Thursday’s debate, calling it fair and constitutional and not unduly favoring either political parties or incumbents. He reiterated the arguments for sponsoring Republican Senator Rob McCauley in describing the plan as superior in competitiveness and in the spirit of the 2018 constitutional amendment.
“If you have the right candidate on the right issues, you can win a competitive area,” McCauley said. “While the Democratic map that was presented in the House of Representatives provided a decisive result.”
The Fair District, Ohio, a coalition of voting rights groups and labor organizations, has called on the governor to repeal the bill. Instead of “bipartisan disdain and transparency,” the redistricting leaders “disrespected voters, trampled on the Ohio constitution and falsified the congressional map to serve partisan and political activists rather than justice,” Executive Director Jane Miller of the Ohio League of Women Voters, a member organization, said. Ohio State”.
Ohio’s Democratic Party on Saturday criticized the governor for signing the law, with party chairwoman Elizabeth Walters accusing DeWine of “naked and partisan self-interest.”
“DeWine and the Ohio Republican Party are doing everything they can to prevent voters from being held accountable at the ballot box while continuing to betray Ohio at every turn,” Walters said.
Dayton Mayor Nan Wiley accused the governor of being “more interested in maintaining political power and appeasing his party ahead of a controversial primary than in respecting the will of Ohioans.”
Under a new process established by a popular 2018 constitutional amendment, creating a 10-year map — the ideal — required strong democratic support. Without it, the plan would only last four years.
States must redraw congressional districts every 10 years to reflect new population numbers. Under this year’s US Census results, which have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ohio has lost one seat in Congress as of next year, raising it from 16 to 15.
Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.