Julie Carr Smyth

Dem opposition nixes GOP fix for Ohio redistricting glitch

May 5, 2021 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s Republican legislative leaders abandoned plans Wednesday for a fast-moving constitutional amendment that would have allowed deadlines for making state political maps to be extended due to pandemic-related delays in the 2020 census.

Senate President Matt Huffman said his idea, which would have required a three-fifths majority of both legislative chambers by Wednesday, was unworkable because of a lack of support from Democrats.

“I don’t think all hope is lost,” he told reporters, noting the time — albeit truncated — available to draw the map before a Sept. 15 deadline. “The real question is, if the data and the other things that need to be done can’t be done by Sept. 15, what happens?”

Senate Democratic Leader Kenny Yuko and House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes have said they preferred asking the Ohio Supreme Court to extend the deadlines — a strategy pursued in some other states — over amending the Ohio Constitution. Republican House Speaker Bob Cupp was on board with Huffman’s proposal, he said.

At issue are constitutionally mandated deadlines for drawing a new, 10-year map for Ohio General Assembly districts under a new, more bipartisan system adopting by Ohio voters, as well as a new 10-year congressional map.

The number of congressional districts in Ohio was reduced from 16 to to 15 with the release of new census data last week. Updated U.S. House maps will need to reflect that loss of a district.

The U.S. Census Bureau has said it anticipates detailed population data to arrive in the states around Aug. 16 — more than four months after the April 1 date on which it normally arrives.

For that reason, Huffman envisioned adding a one-time mechanism to the state constitution that would have set up a mechanism for state lawmakers to adjust the dates through floor votes. He also supported a related reduction in the one-year residency requirement for state legislative candidates to live in their districts to nine months.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is pursuing legal action to try to get census data sooner and Fair Districts Ohio, a coalition of voter rights groups, has suggested that another alternative would be to move the 2022 primary from May to June to give candidates additional time with the new maps.