COLUMBUS, Ohio — The powerful new redistricting panel in Ohio failed on Wednesday to reach the bipartisan consensus necessary to pass a 10-year map of state legislative districts based on 2020 census totals.
After hours of negotiations ahead of a midnight deadline, the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved new district boundaries purely along party lines in a 5-2 vote. That means the map will last for only four years.
The new map would likely give Republicans an advantage in both chambers: A 62-37 advantage in the House and a 23-10 advantage in the Ohio Senate, explained Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima. Overall, it gives Republicans a veto-proof majority unless the Ohio Supreme Court intervenes.
BREAKING: The Ohio Redistricting Commission approves the GOP map 5-2 along party lines. We will have 4-year legislative maps unless the Ohio Supreme Court intervenes. @SpectrumNews1OH pic.twitter.com/gCR5s22TEk— Josh Rultenberg (@JoshRultNews) September 16, 2021
Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, said the map approved shouldn't be considered fair. House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, agreed.
"To have before us today, a map that summarily and arrogantly eliminates the ability for women like me, the women of the past, to engage in the process and have their votes heard is not only offensive. It is plain wrong," Sykes said.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose both expressed that had hoped for a 10-year, but it didn't happen before the deadline.
"Not enough members wanted to come along," LaRose said. "I fear we’re going to back in this room very soon.”
They both voted yes for the new four-year map, but DeWine said "it wouldn't be the end of it."
Ohio used a new redistricting process for the first time this year that was approved by voters through state ballot issues in 2015 and 2018. The new system is meant to combat partisan gerrymandering, or the drawing of districts for partisan gain.
The Ohio electorate is roughly 53% Republican and 45% Democratic, experts estimate. Yet, under the current GOP-drawn maps, Republicans control 64% of Ohio House seats and 75% of Ohio Senate seats.
An Associated Press analysis found that Ohio’s maps are among the nation’s most gerrymandered, during a period when Republicans won more seats than would have been expected based on the percentage of votes they received.
The separate process for redrawing congressional districts is running concurrently to the legislative map-making process. Ohio lost one congressional seat due to lagging population growth recorded in the 2020 Census, which will give the state 15 rather than 16 seats for the next 10 years.