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Ohio Lawmakers Rush To Reach Redistricting Compromise Before Deadline

Reps. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Matt Huffman (R-Lima) chaired the 2015 campaign for Issue 1 on Statehouse redistricting. Now in the Senate, Huffman is working on a Congressional redistricting plan he says will be similar.
Karen Kasler
Ohio Public Radio

After a week of closed-door negotiations that failed to reach a compromise, state lawmakers have added a rare Monday afternoon session, in case they need to vote on changing the way Ohio’s Congressional map is drawn.

Former reporter and state Rep. Mike Curtin says a deal between Republican state lawmakers, who want to keep control of drawing the map, and Democrats and citizens’ groups, who want a bipartisan commission to do it, comes down to a big compromise.

“Republicans have to not split big counties unless they must for population reasons, and Democrats have to give up this ghost of so-called representational fairness,” Curtin says.

Democrats say splitting urban counties breaks up communities. But Republicans say requiring the percentage of seats for each party to match each party’s percentage of votes is gerrymandering too.

Though Republican state Rep. Matt Huffman says he’s already made a lot of changes to his bill, the Fair Districts Fair Elections coalition continues to argue it doesn’t go far enough.

“It does not address gerrymandering," said Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio. "It does not keep communities together. And it doesn’t prohibit drawing a district map to favor or disfavor one political party. These are basic things you want in any proposal.”

Curtin says a truly fair map would be drawn based only on census population data, not on party affiliation data.

Lawmakers have until Wednesday to pass a plan if they want it on the May ballot. Meanwhile, Fair Districts continue to collect signatures to get their rival proposal on the November ballot.