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Ohio's new state district map, set to shape politics for 10 years, still isn't done

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Posted at 7:31 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 19:57:50-04

The Ohio Redistricting Commission was supposed to release a new state district map — which shows which parts of Ohio will vote together for representation in state legislature — on Sept. 1.

By Sept. 8, a week before the deadline to finalize and approve it, the commission still hadn’t produced one. Because district maps are drawn using census data, a delayed 2020 census pushed back the completion dates for everything else.

So why should you care about any of it?

“People want to be represented,” said Blue Ash resident Jean Henderson.

Right now, she’s in a congressional district spanning two counties with urban and rural areas inside. The needs of voters within can be different.

“Perhaps a rural community might be more interested in broadband needs, where that’s not a need in a suburban or urban communities where perhaps transportation is top of mind,” she said. “Keeping communities whole, whether you’re suburban, urban or whether you are rural, is vital to having good representation.”

And Catherine Turner, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, said that’s the most important concern — not when a map gets finished, but how that map is created and whether it provides Ohioans with a fair opportunity to vote as communities. Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing districts to favor certain parties or interests, is always a concern.

"We shouldn't worry too much about deadlines,” she said. “(But) they're not really laying out how it is they're going to do bipartisan map-making. And they haven't laid out a good schedule so that we, the public, can participate in the actual deliberation about those maps."

The maps won’t be redrawn until another census is conducted, Henderson added.

“Remember, these maps are going to be good 10 years, so if there’s a problem in year one, there’s going to be a problem still in year 10,” she said.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission — which is composed of four general assembly members, Gov. Mike DeWine, the state auditor and Secretary of State Frank LaRose — will hold two public hearings Thursday. It’s unclear if a map will be presented then.