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DeWine Approves New Ohio Congressional Map That Gives GOP Advantage In Most Districts

 Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) presents a new Congressional district map, drawn by the Senate Republican Caucus.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) presents a new Congressional district map, drawn by the Senate Republican Caucus.

In a statement released Saturday, DeWine said "When compared to the other proposals offered from House and Senate caucuses, both Republican and Democrat, the map in SB258 makes the most progress to produce a fair, compact, and competitive map."

DeWine went on to tout the map's city and county splits. He said the Republican-drawn Congressional map keeps Lucas and Stark counties whole and puts all of the Mahoning Valley into one district.

However, DeWine did not mention in his statement the splits the Congressional district map makes in smaller counties such as Holmes and Clark counties, which was noted by opponents of the plan.

DeWine said the map "also keeps the cities of Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo all whole within the same congressional map for the first time since the 1840s."

DeWine noted the map creates seven "competitive" districts but did not specify which districts those were or the definition of "competitive." A spokesperson for DeWine said the statement regarding competitive districts was based on an analysis sent to the governor's office by the Ohio House.

The Congressional district map passed out of the Ohio House and Ohio Senate with only Republican support.

The final draft of the map was made public on Monday evening, then it was quickly approved by a Senate committee Tuesday morning and the full Senate chamber Tuesday afternoon. The House took up the map Thursday.

House Minority Caucus Leader Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) released a statement in response to DeWine signing the map.

"From the start, Republicans refused to negotiate in good faith. They dismissed concerns raised by citizens and disrespected the voters who demanded fair maps. Signing these gerrymandered maps into law makes the governor as complicit as the Republican majority who passed them. This is a shameful abuse of power, a sad day for our democracy, and another reminder that Republicans are unfit to lead our state."

Anti-gerrymandering advocates said the map is a clear violation of the redistricting reforms passed by voters in 2018. That measure includes language that states elected officials cannot draw a map that "unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents."

According to "Dave's Redistricting," a national analytical tool, the Congressional district map creates five districts where Republican voters outnumber Democratic voters by more than 20%, and two districts where Republican voters outnumber Democratic voters by more than 10%.

There are six districts where the margin between registered Republicans and Democrats is below 10%. Of those districts, five lean in favor of Republicans.

The League of Women Voters' Jen Miller said the constitution calls for mapmakers to follow an index of how the state votes, which has split 54% Republican and 46% Democratic over the course of 10 years.

"This map is unconstitutional because it slices and dices communities purely to unduly favor one political party over the rights of everyday Ohio voters," she said.

There are only two districts in the Congressional map approved by the Ohio Senate that heavily favor Democrats. Those districts are in Franklin County and Cuyahoga County.

The League of Women Voters said a court challenge is on the table. The group is already in the middle of a lawsuit against the new Ohio House and Senate district maps approved by Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission in October.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.