COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio House Republicans unveiled a proposed map of Ohio congressional districts Wednesday morning that splits Cuyahoga County three ways.
Rep. Scott Oelslager, a North Canton Republican who is sponsoring the plan in the Ohio House, House Bill 479, described the political breakdown of the 15 congressional seats: eight would lean Republican, five would be competitive or toss up and two would lean Democratic.
Democrats on the panel who looked at the bill on the House Government Oversight Committee were skeptical about the number of competitive districts.
An analysis found only two competitive or toss up congressional districts under the plan, in Cincinnati and in a district in Portage and parts of Summit and and Stark counties held by outgoing U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Under the plan, Democrats could win at most four seats under a best-case scenario for the party, although sometimes districts flip if a party or candidate is particularly unpopular.
Dave’s Redistricting App, a popular website, shows eight Republican-leaning districts, plus an additional three districts that are less competitive for Republicans but still lean toward GOP.
Democrats have the advantage in two districts and could potentially nab the two competitive districts.
Under the proposal, Congressional districts 3 and 11 would be Democratic-leaning. Congressional District 3 is in Columbus and some suburbs and is held by U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat. CD 11 is Cleveland and includes Warrensville Heights, where Shontel Brown lives. Brown was just elected to the district Tuesday night.
Beatty announced she’s moving from the Columbus suburb of Blacklick to downtown Columbus, most of which is outside of the district.
Dave’s Redistricting says that eight proposed districts lean Republican.
Seven districts currently have GOP incumbents: Congressional District 2 in Southern Ohio, including part of Hamilton County, held by U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup; CD 4, in center and western part of the state, held by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan; CD 5, which includes part of Lucas County and other parts of Northwest Ohio, held by Bob Latta; CD 6, which runs along the Ohio River and is held by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson; CD 7, which includes Lorain, Medina, Wayne and Holmes counties, held by U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs; CD 8, in western Ohio, held by U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson; and CD 12 in central and eastern Ohio, held by U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson.
Congressional District 9 is held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, but was drawn with only 36.3% residents who are registered Democrats, and 58.3% who are registered Republicans, meaning she could face a tough re-election fight if she runs again.
Three proposed congressional districts would lean Republican, but be less competitive.
Congressional District 10, which would make up all of Montgomery, Greene and Lafayette counties and part of Clark County, held by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, would be slightly less competitive for Republicans. It gives Republicans a 9.8% advantage, with 52.6% registered Republicans to 42.8% Democrats.
CD 14, part of which is in Cuyahoga County and stretches east along Lake Erie, held by U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, gives Republicans a 9.9% advantage. It is 52.8% Republican and 42.9% Democratic.
CD 15 gives Republicans a 9.5% advantage, being 52.4% Republican to 42.8% Democratic. Mike Carey won that district in a Tuesday night election.
Under the House GOP plan, Congressional District 1 would be the most competitive. That district runs through Cincinnati and into more conservative Warren County. Currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican, the newly proposed district has 47.5% of its residents who are registered Democrats and 48% who are Republicans.
Coming within 5.9% is Congressional District 13, held by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate. also could flip Republican. Voters in the district would be 50.7% Republican and 44.9% Democratic.
The Equal Districts Coalition, a group of over 30 advocacy organizations and labor unions tracking redistricting, said in a statement that the map gives Republicans an advantage, despite rules in the constitutional amendment.
“Based on Ohio’s average vote share for the past ten years, a fair congressional map will consist of seven Democratic seats and eight Republican seats. Initial analyses say this Republican-drawn map might allow Democrats only two seats. This proposal is worse than the current gerrymandered map Ohioans soundly rejected at the polls.
Democrats on the House committee said that they only received a PDF version of the map 12 minutes before the committee started. They wanted a more detailed map. They also requested additional time, at least a day, to study the map before asking Republicans questions about it. Republicans who control the committee voted against the request for more time.
Ohio currently has 16 congressional districts: 12 Republican and 4 Democratic.
While the 2020 Census showed slight growth in Ohio’s population, the increase wasn’t on pace with other states and Ohio is losing one congressional seat.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission was supposed pass a congressional map, but the Republicans on the commission never passed a proposal by Oct. 31, handing the task to the Ohio General Assembly.
A constitutional amendment passed by 75% of voters in May 2018 outlined the process for congressional maps. The amendment was sold to voters to limit gerrymandering.
“This map does comply with Article 19 of the state Constitution,” Oelslager said.
However, Rep. Stephanie Howse, a Cleveland Democrat, argued the map doesn’t reflect the will of the voters who passed the constitutional amendment.
“Do you think this is the map that they wanted?” she asked Oelslager.
The legislature has until Nov. 30 to pass a redistricting bill. For the bill to last 10 years, Republicans must get a third of Democratic votes in the House and Senate. Otherwise, the bill would only be good for four years.
With state legislative maps, Republicans pushed maps that are only good for four years.