Home Opinion Editorials Editorial: Will of people ignored by drawing partisan legislative maps

Editorial: Will of people ignored by drawing partisan legislative maps


A recent editorial by the Akron Beacon Journal:

Ohio’s Republicans aren’t even trying. They have brushed off the hopes of Ohio voters and are taking their own path.

The Ohio citizens who backed two constitutional amendments on redistricting worked hard over a number of years, and ultimately voters agreed on processes that promised fair state and congressional district maps.

In the matter of drawing the lines for Ohio’s 15 congressional districts — ideally, for 10 years — the state legislature blew its deadline, sending the job on to the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The panel — made of five Republicans and two Democrats — didn’t do much, either, and also missed its deadline. So now the task goes back to the legislature. In this round, about one-third of Democrats have to approve the proposed congressional maps. If they don’t, the legislature can try again and pass a map with a simple majority that will only be good for four years.

We’re not psychics, but we think Ohio will ultimately end up with a four-year map that assures Republicans an overwhelming majority in the state’s congressional delegation. Maps that actually reflect voters’ preferences for Democratic candidates mean we would have maybe eight Republicans and seven Democrats — but past gerrymandering gave the Ohio GOP a 75% majority. It’s likely we will have more of the same.

Nationally, the stakes are high as Democrats struggle to keep their majority in the House in the 2022 midterm election.

Allowing real competition in general elections is not in the Republican playbook. The GOP prefers to ignore the 70% of people who passed state constitutional amendments aimed at ending gerrymandering — in Ohio, the practice of Republicans drawing red district maps that weaken Democrats’ voting power.

That majority of voting Ohioans, meanwhile, will be stuck paying the salaries of legislators and executive branch officeholders who can’t be bothered to put in real effort on fair districts.

Nothing will change until Republicans decide to stand up and show their support for voters who spoke clearly on this issue.

In the separate issue of Ohio Statehouse districts, it was clear that some GOP members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission had their doubts — but Republicans stuck together anyway.

For example, a deposition shows that Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, found the rationale behind numbers to be “asinine.” In a text to his chief of staff, LaRose pondered voting no. Ultimately, he voted yes.

Also disturbing: LaRose, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Auditor Keith Faber admitted in filings with the Ohio Supreme Court that they had no role in drafting or creating the maps.

In essence, they gave away their power to the other Republicans on the commission, Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp. That in itself shows a lack of extensive negotiation with the two Democrats on the panel, Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, both of Akron.

Vernon Sykes says in filings with the Ohio Supreme Court that he was excluded from the mapmaking process. And Emilia Sykes claims the proposed plan was drafted in secret and presented to other commissioners “at the last minute.”

There is no excuse for this lack of negotiations and bipartisanship.

One excuse offered by Cupp is that the redistricting commission was hampered by the U.S. Census Bureau’s delays in delivering apportionment data. That excuse seems beside the point as it seems the staffers and consultants the Republicans did use were not sharing their information in public meetings.

If a gerrymandered map of congressional districts is passed, it will be no relief to the disillusioned Ohioans who again will see far-away and far-out representatives, such as Republicans Bob Gibbs of Lakeville and Jim Jordan of Urbana, get all the breaks.

Democrats in Washington, it’s said, struggle to agree on matters, but the Republicans are united. To maintain and improve their numbers, they have agreed on one strategy — to play hard ball all the time.

— Akron Beacon Journal, Oct. 31