by J.D. Davidson


Two independent map makers could have a first draft of state legislative maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission by Thursday night, a day after getting their instructions.

The commission faces a Monday deadline to have new maps on the desk of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who must have the maps to the Ohio Supreme Court by 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The commission adopted a set of instructions for map makers Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida, and Doug Johnston, with National Demographics.

The two asked the commission to view any report or work product already produced by the commission staff or consultants to help be in compliance with the state Constitution.

The commission agreed to have two minority staffers and two majority staffers work with the map makers and share knowledge.

The map makers also can use two independent computers at two workstations to prepare, with a third computer where final decisions would be inputted. The commission struggled and failed to decide whether one or all three computers will have a live camera available for public viewing on the commission website. The court’s order reads the drafting shall occur in public.

The commission is expected to meet again Thursday night.

LaRose also has directed county boards of elections to remove candidates for the General Assembly and state central committees from the May 3 primary ballot.

LaRose said he is prepared to move forward with a May 3 primary for candidates for statewide, congressional, local offices and local ballot issues. Congressional races could be removed from the ballot if the map is ruled unconstitutional.

The General Assembly will decide on a date for a second primary, which LaRose has said could cost up to $20 million.

The two Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission asked the Ohio Supreme Court last week to move the state’s May 3 primary amid ongoing legal challenges to state legislative and congressional district maps.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, on March 16 the commission’s third attempt at state legislative district maps unfairly favored Republicans, saying the commission has attempted three sets of maps without input from Democrats on any, instead using GOP staffers to draft each map.

The court also suggested, but did not order, an independent map drawer be engaged, but the commission holds the responsibility to draw and approve maps.

Aside from claiming the process was not transparent, the court focused on toss-up districts and said they could not count to the proportionality it required in previous rulings.

It also ordered a more collaborative effort between Republicans and Democrats on the commission and for the commission to hold more frequent public hearings.

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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square. 
Photo “Frank LaRose” by Frank LaRose. Background Photo “Ohio Supreme Court” by Sixflashphoto. CC BY-SA 4.0.