Republicans, Democrats still at odds over Ohio congressional maps

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Ohio’s effort to redraw congressional districts bounced back to the General Assembly, where Democrats are calling the Republican proposal heavily gerrymandered and against the wishes of Ohioans who voted for reform in 2018.

State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, however, said the Republican proposal meets state constitutional requirements.

“It is the product of a deliberate effort to draw compact districts, while keeping Ohio’s largest cities whole,” McColley said in sponsor testimony.

Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, called the GOP maps an attempt to dilute minority voting power.

“Ohioans want to see a bipartisan, 10-year congressional map that keeps our communities together and reflects the preferences of Ohio voters,” West said. “The Republican maps released today fall flat. They are egregiously gerrymandered, unfairly favoring Republican candidates 13-2. They split our largest counties. They’re not compact. They pack and crack Black and brown voters to dilute their voting power. Ohioans deserve better than more rigged maps.”

McColley said the Republicans’ goal was to draw compact districts while keeping the state’s largest cities whole. The map does keep the 25 most-populous cities whole, with the exception of Columbus.

The proposal does split some of the state’s most populous counties, however.

“While rural districts will generally be geographically larger than those in urban and suburban areas, the primary reason we decided to split some of most populous counties in Ohio was to ensure geographic compactness of all districts in accordance with the Ohio Constitution,” McColley said.

Thursday’s Senate hearing included one proponent and three opponents, while several other groups and individuals testified as interested parties.

In the House, eight opponents and one proponent provided testimony, while several interested parties also voiced opinions.

“In 2018, Ohioans overwhelmingly voted in favor of making our redistricting process fairer and more open in order to end partisan gerrymandering,” Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Columbus, “[Wednesday], Ohio House and Senate Republicans released heavily gerrymandered maps that fly in the face of Ohioans’ wishes. These maps were created with zero public input and perpetuate the egregious gerrymandering that led voters to demand reform in the first place. Ohioans deserve fair representation, and it is clear that these maps will not provide it.”

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