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Redistricting Reforms Will Be In Effect For New Map

Ohio Secretary of State

2021 brings a new mapmaking process for Ohio's state legislative and congressional districts. Voters approved reforms in the past five years to avoid gerrymandering, and voter advocates say the time has come to make sure the process works. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.  <--break->

Ohio has been considered a battleground state for decades, having voted for Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and Republicans George W. Bush and Donald Trump. But Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio says the current districts for state legislative offices and congressional seats do not reflect a political balance. 


"For many years after our votes have been manipulated, they created districts that leaned Republican or lean Democratic. And what happened is year after year, those gerrymanders were really robust every single year since the maps were drawn in 2011. There have been 12 Republicans elected to go to Congress and four Democrats year after year after year. And that manipulation of our vote is actually ends up being the manipulation of public policy. And so what we want is for all of us to participate in real elections." 


In the Statehouse, Republicans have maintained their 2-1 dominance in the Senate and picked up a seat in 2020. And after losing a few seats in the House in 2018, Republicans added a total of three members in the last election.


Every ten years, Ohio draws new district maps, and in 2015 and 2018, voters approved a new process to prevent gerrymandering.  


The process includes rules the maps must follow such as keeping 65 of Ohio's 88 counties whole, and only letting five counties be split more than twice. Turcer says these rules will stop mapmakers from creating districts that weave in and out of political strongholds that favor one party over another. 


The official mapmaking process won't start until the summer, but Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters Ohio says they're mobilizing now to make sure the voices of voters are heard. 


"The League and Common Cause and all of our volunteers who have been fighting gerrymandering for more than half a century are gearing up. We're going to be calling our lawmakers. We're going to be engaging the public so that they're ready to participate as well." 


Miller says the new mapmaking process includes better opportunities for citizens to provide their input and for the drawing to be more transparent. 


New Republican Senate President Matt Huffman was at the forefront of creating the reforms.  But he defends the maps that were made in 2011 and points out that there were state legislative races where a challenger was able to beat an incumbent. However, he says the new rules will help keep the mapmakers accountable.  


"Somebody and maybe a lot of people who knows somebody is going to be unhappy with what these districts look like. They're going to be outraged. It's going to be unfair. It's going to be because, hey, you know, especially when it comes to things like this, you can make everybody happy. And when that happens, everybody, including me, can say, well, this is the way the voters wanted it to be done." 


The new maps will be based on the outcome of the 2020 Census which was taken last year. The results of that will come out in February. Officials will take that census and begin to compile data on how a map can accurately reflect different regions of the state.  


The Congressional maps will be created by state lawmakers with bipartisan approval required. The state legislative districts will be drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which includes the governor, secretary of state, auditor, two Republicans from the House and Senate, and two Democrats from the House and Senate.  


The state is expected the Census to show a lag in population growth which could mean Ohio might lose one or even two of its 16 Congressional seats. 



The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
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