COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's Redistricting Commission could miss the constitutionally-required deadline to draw new state legislative maps due to the delay in the state getting the data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
However, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said he has a plan to fix the potential issue.
Ohio has two different processes when it comes to drawing state legislative versus congressional district maps. The U.S. Census data, which is used to create both maps, was expected to be available in April but the pandemic has pushed that back to potentially mid-August.
Huffman is concerned the commission will not meet the constitutionally-required deadline in September for the state legislative map.
"If we don't make these constitutional changes, we're going to have a map, again only for the General Assembly not the congressional districts, we will have a map drawn that the majority will approve. The minority will not and it will be a four-year map," said Huffman.
The Ohio Constitution requires the Ohio Redistricting Commission to vote on a new state legislative map by Sept. 1. If the vote is bipartisan, the map goes into effect for the 2022 election cycle and lasts for 10 years. If the vote is not bipartisan, the commission has two weeks to build a consensus. If that does not work, then a simple majority can create a map for 2022 that would last four years which Huffman said could be possible but still not likely.
To buy extra time, Huffman is asking for a constitutional amendment on the special election ballot in August in which voters could approve an extension until October or November. Huffman says this would be a one-time exception and not the rule moving forward in other redistricting processes.
"This has a tough time passing if it doesn't have bipartisan support," Huffman said.
Huffman has been negotiating with House Speaker Robert Cupp, R-Lima; House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron; and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights.
In order for a deal to be reached, Huffman also said the residency requirement for candidates to live in their district for a year prior to the election would have to be changed to nine months.
"If we didn't form these districts until the end of October til the middle of November, a lot of people would get redistricted-out or they'd have to move or it wouldn't make any difference because they wouldn't have lived there for a year beforehand. So we have to do something in fairness to change those things," said Huffman.
Cupp said he is in on board. Yuko is concerned the public will be shut out of the process. Sykes believes this should be the last solution and not the first, pointing to the Ohio Supreme Court looking into changing dates before the General Assembly messes with the constitution again.
The deadline to get an amendment on the ballot is next Wednesday.