COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Ohio Redistricting Commission to file responses to show why it failed to file new election maps by the deadline that was set.
The court set a deadline of noon on Wednesday, Feb. 23 to have a constitutionally appropriate map submitted before the court after rejecting two previous maps. Missing the deadline would result in the committee being in contempt of court.
The members of the Ohio Redistricting Committee are Gov. Mike DeWine, Speaker of the House Bob Cupp, Senate President Matt Huffman, Auditor Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Senator Vernon Sykes and Statehouse Minority Leader C. Allison Russo. The committee is made up of five Republicans and two Democrats.
DeWine filed a response stating he urged the commission to create a map that would meet Ohio's Constitutional requirements.
"The bottom line is that through his leadership and office, the Governor has sought through the entire redistricting process to secure a plan passing constitutional scrutiny," DeWine's response said. "Yet, the Governor is but one of seven independent members of a separate constitutional body. He lacks the legal power or capacity to dictate or compel a specific action, let alone result."
DeWine's response said the Ohio Constitution gives the Governor supreme executive power as Governor, but he doesn't have the same power as a member of the commission.
Sykes and Russo, the two Democratic legislators on the committee, filed a joint response together, as did state officeholders LaRose and Faber, and Republican legislators Huffman and Cupp.
"The Sykes-Russo maps that we presented meet the Constitution's requirements," the Sykes-Russo response said. "But because we are just two members of the committee, we lack the voting power to put these constitutionally-compliant House and Senate district maps into effect."
Faber and LaRose responded, stating the commission couldn't do in 10 days what it previously had taken four months to do.
Faber and LaRose responded: "Ultimately, the Sykes-Russo plan, some version of it or a third yet-to-be-determined option will be enacted by the commission. It has to be because Ohio needs House and Senate district maps to elect representatives and senators in 2022 and only the commission is authorized to enact new district plans. But it was legally - and practically - impossible for Faber or LaRose to individually adopt maps much less in the time afforded by the court."
Huffman and Cupp said they weren't under any contempt order, because the court only said it would hold the redistricting commission in contempt and didn't name the individual officeholders.
Members of the commission filed their responses before the deadline. The court hasn't said when it planned to rule on the contempt charge.
No formal plan has been unveiled on how to handle the upcoming primary elections, which require a district map for local elections.