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GOP neglects redistricting duty

It’s neglect of duty for Republicans in the state Legislature to let a Sept. 30 deadline pass to seek a bipartisan agreement on new congressional districts without even introducing a map.

Looking ahead, there’s virtually no way Republicans and enough Democrats will agree on a congressional map.

If the debacle that occurred in drawing the state legislative districts is any indication, Republicans aren’t interested in getting a 10-year bipartisan map for congressional districts. Instead, they’ll accept a four-year partisan map and hope the Ohio Supreme Court doesn’t require them to redraw it.

Even if the court orders a new map, would it be drastically different than the gerrymandered state legislative map approved Sept. 15 by the Ohio Redistricting Commission?

With Republicans in the Legislature declining to draw a congressional map, that responsibility now goes to the redistricting commission.

The commission consists of five Republicans — Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor Keith Faber, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman — and two Democrats — House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and her father, state Sen. Vernon Sykes.

The commission has yet to meet to discuss maps, even though Vernon Sykes has called for four hearings across the state.

The commission has until Oct. 31 to draw a new congressional map. A majority vote, with both Democrats in support, is needed for a 10-year map. If that doesn’t work — and it won’t — it returns to the General Assembly.

The Sept. 30 deadline required at least half of the Democrats in the Legislature to vote in favor of a 10-year congressional map. If the commission can’t come to an agreement and it returns to the Legislature, it needs one-third of the Democrats to vote in support by a Nov. 30 deadline for a 10-year map.

If enough Democrats don’t support the map, whatever Republicans draw will be good for four years and almost certainly be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Huffman contended Republican staff were so focused on the state legislative maps that insufficient time remained to draw congressional maps.

It doesn’t really matter because the GOP showed little interest in drawing a fair legislative map. The one approved by the commission maintains the current Republican advantage in 65 House districts and draws 23 Republican Senate districts. Republicans currently represent 25 of the Senate’s 33 districts.

With the state not growing in population as quickly as the rest of the country, Ohio is losing one of its 16 congressional districts with next year’s election.

For the past decade, Republicans have held a 12-4 advantage among Ohio’s congressional seats, primarily due to how the GOP drew maps a decade ago.

A new process is supposed to reflect statewide partisan voting trends for the past decade with Republicans getting 54 percent of the vote.

But as the state legislative map shows, Republicans have no interest in having government reflect how people vote in the state.

Senate Democrats introduced a map Sept. 29, the day before the initial deadline, giving Republicans an 8-7 advantage in congressional districts. It has no chance of passing. Democrats should be happy with a congressional map that favors Republicans 10-5.

Democrats in their map carved out districts around its power bases of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, Columbus and Toledo.

Interestingly, Democrats gave away the Mahoning Valley, once a stronghold for the party, to Republicans.

The Senate Democratic map doesn’t have a prayer of being implemented, but the party has surrendered the Valley to Republicans even though there is only one Republican executive branch officeholder in both Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

One district, called the 11th by Democrats, would include all of Trumbull along with Youngstown and the eastern part of Mahoning with Ashtabula, Lake and Portage counties.

Based on statewide partisan voting trends, this district would be 51 percent Republican and 46.4 percent Democratic.

That district would be represented by incumbent Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, one of the House’s most bipartisan members.

The rest of Mahoning County would be in a solid Republican 8th District along with all of Columbiana, Jefferson, Carroll, Belmont, Tuscarawas, Harrison and Guernsey counties and a part of Stark County.

The district is 62.6 percent Republican and 34.5 percent Democrat with the rest voting for third-party or independent candidates over the past decade.

It’s wrong that southern Mahoning County has been in a district that stretches to Scioto County at the bottom of the state for 20 years. For Democrats to put much of Mahoning, including Austintown and Boardman, in this new district is just as ridiculous.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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