Voter groups: Start Ohio map-making despite Census data lag

April 5, 2021 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A coalition of voting rights groups in Ohio urged state officials and lawmakers on Monday to get moving now to lay the groundwork for redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts, despite a delay in the underlying Census data.

Fair Districts Ohio sent a list of recommendations to Gov. Mike DeWine and other members of the state apportionment board, which oversees legislative districts, as well as all 123 members of the Ohio General Assembly, which oversees congressional districts.

Among key suggestions is exploring the possibility of pushing back the 2022 primary from May to June, to give more notice to candidates of new district lines without impeding the general election timeline.

“In 2015 and 2018, Ohio leaders worked with voter advocates to craft new redistricting processes that were overwhelmingly supported by Ohioans across the state,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “Now we must work together again to fulfill the promise of those reforms.”

Advocates also called for funds to be released for planning and research, the launch of a public website soliciting input about redistricting and appointing members to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The groups also want public hearings to begin featuring political science, mapping, data, legal and voting rights experts, as well as members of the public.

A federal judge last month dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of Ohio that tried to get the U.S. Census Bureau to provide data used for drawing congressional and legislative districts ahead of its planned release, which has been pushed back from March 31 to sometime in August or September.