A proposal from Ohio House Republicans could give the GOP a 13-2 advantage among representatives to the U.S. House despite voter-approved changes to prevent gerrymandering.
The map, introduced Wednesday morning, would create two safe Democratic districts in Columbus and Cleveland; nine safe Republican districts and four districts that lean Republican. The most competitive district would be Cincinnati’s 1st Congressional District, according to the popular redistricting analysis website, Dave’s Redistricting App.
Under the proposed House GOP map, Cincinnati’s 1st District, currently represented by GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, would group the city of Cincinnati, which is reliably Democratic, with heavily Republican Warren County. The district leans Republican, 49.8% to 47.9%, according to Dave’s Redistricting App.
“People are frustrated now with how the district has been split,” said Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Hyde Park. She said the new proposal doesn’t solve those problems and wanted to know why the 1st District was crafted in that way.
The House GOP map would also put GOP Rep. Brad Wenstrup’s Columbia Tusculum into Chabot’s 1st congressional district.
Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, of Toledo, would be drawn out of a district, which currently stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along Lake Erie. Instead, the city would be included with more GOP-friendly counties around it.
Columbus’ 3rd Congressional District and Cleveland’s 11th Congressional District would remain heavily Democratic, but the surrounding districts would give Republicans the advantage.
The House GOP map would also draw Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty’s downtown condominium into the 15th congressional district with Licking and Fairfield counties. The district would favor Republicans 53% to 45%.
Under the proposal, Akron would be divided into two districts with one stretching into Portage, Ashtabula and Trumbull counties while another extends into several Appalachian counties south of the city. Both districts would favor Republicans.
House Republican staff member Blake Springhetti drew the map presented by Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, Wednesday morning. Democrats saw a copy of the map 18 minutes before the committee meeting started.
Oelslager said the map creates 8 GOP safe districts, five competitive districts, which he defined as between 45% and 55% partisan leaning, and two safe Democratic districts. The map splits fewer subdivisions than Ohio’s current congressional map and keeps the districts’ populations almost identical.
Oelslager had few answers to Democratic lawmakers’ technical questions about the map and whether Republicans wanted a 10-year map, which would require Democratic support. The GOP majority could approve a four-year map without Democrats but it could not favor one party over the other.
What happens next?
After missing two deadlines, Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature once again holds the pen for drawing congressional districts. Lawmakers have until Nov. 30 to approve a map and need Democratic buy-in for it to last 10 years. If they can’t cobble together enough bipartisan support, Republicans could approve a map that lasts four years instead.
Senate Republicans planned to release their map Wednesday afternoon. Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said his goal, aspirationally, is to avoid last-minute work on a final map in late November. Hearings are set for Thursday morning so the public can provide feedback on the maps.
Huffman said any map will be limited by the geography of the state and where Ohioans live. And in the end, “we are a Republican state at this point.”
Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, said he hopes to use his experience as a union negotiator to reach a deal that matches Ohioans’ voting preferences. But he’s also aware that Republicans could seek a few Democratic votes to approve a map that doesn’t work for everyone.
“My expectations are they are going to try to pick us off,” Yuko said. “I was not born yesterday.”
This story will be updated.
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
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