Ohio’s state legislative redistricting process is in a messy place: NPR

Lawyers gather outside the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. Judges have struck down three versions of state legislative maps drawn by Republicans for unconstitutionality.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP


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Lawyers gather outside the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. Judges have struck down three versions of state legislative maps drawn by Republicans for unconstitutionality.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP

Voters in Ohio are supposed to be able to cast their ballots in the state’s May 3 primary — up and down the ballot — but with just six weeks to go, the electoral districts for the state legislature aren’t have not been decided.

Most states wrap up redistricting process, but Ohio Supreme Court rejects Republican-drawn state legislative maps thrice to be unconstitutional, leaving candidates, voters, and the state’s entire electoral infrastructure confused as to what happened next.

After the court’s latest rejection of the map, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, told lawmakers and election officials that it would be impossible under the current circumstances for the races to State House and State Senate appear on the May 3 ballot.

“Our bipartisan election officials stood ready to deliver this election on time,” LaRose wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “However, these councils again find themselves without clear districts to certify legislative candidates, and they are simply running out of time.”

For the first time, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are now work together to try to draw new districts that the Supreme Court of Ohio could allow to go forward.

“We’re going to hopefully take a little different approach to see if it works, but I think it remains to be seen if it all goes well. We’re hoping for the best,” said House Speaker Bob Cupp, a Republican and co-chairman of the commission.

Above the redistricting process and questions about the primary looms a federal lawsuit filed by a group of Republican voters. They are asking a panel of three federal judges to review the situation in Ohio and ultimately order that the February 24 cards be used in the May 3 primary.

Voters don’t know who they are voting for

A concern among suffrage advocates is that the ever-changing nature of Ohio’s redistricting process may cause a whiplash for voters.

Voters’ rights advocates gather at a church in downtown Columbus, Ohio, for an anti-gerrymandering rally on September 21, 2021.

Andy Chow / Ohio Public Radio


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Voters’ rights advocates gather at a church in downtown Columbus, Ohio, for an anti-gerrymandering rally on September 21, 2021.

Andy Chow / Ohio Public Radio

Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said lawmakers should delay the primary so confused voters can catch up on what’s going on.

“Right now, voters don’t even know who their candidates are. Candidates don’t even know what their ridings are. More time means everything,” Miller said.

Candidates do not know where they are running

Incumbents and challengers don’t know what their district lines will ultimately look like, or what communities will be in their districts.

State Representative Thomas Hall, a Republican from southwestern Ohio, says there is a lot of uncertainty regarding his district, which could end up adding 40,000 new voters. Hall says the confusion extends to where they put road signs.

“I do a lot of doors and I do a lot of signage to get our message across. But right now we’re kind of on hold to see where we shouldn’t put those signs. Obviously we don’t want to create more voter confusion,” Hall said.

Leaders weigh moving primary

Other states, like North Carolina and Maryland, have already pushed back their prime dates due to redistricting delays.

In Ohio, lawmakers have the prerogative to change the date of an election and so far Republican legislative leaders have been reluctant to postpone the May 3 primary.

Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican, has suggested splitting the primary into two different dates and keeping the May 3 election for the state and local races.

Others pushed back on the idea, saying it would continue to rack up work for local election commissions. A second primary could also cost the state up to $25 million.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission has until March 28 to adopt a fourth set of state legislative district maps. Based on a ruling in the federal court case, state lawmakers will have to make a decision on what to do with the upcoming May 3 primary without having time to put state legislative races on the ballot. of voting.

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