COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After three failures, Ohio’s powerful political mapmaking body convened Tuesday and set a series of meetings for hammering out a constitutional compromise on boundaries for state legislative districts.
The 7-member Ohio Redistricting Commission scheduled daily hearings beginning Wednesday and running through its next court deadline on Monday, as needed. It will be helped this time by mediators from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and a pair of independent mapmakers hired in a unanimous vote Monday night.
The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected three sets of Ohio House and Ohio Senate maps drawn by the panel, ruling in a 4-3 vote each time that the plans were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to unduly favor Republicans.
Some GOP lawmakers have said they want to impeach Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a moderate Republican who joined the court’s three Democrats in those decisions. Legislative leaders have given no indication they would let such an action proceed.
Meanwhile, Democrats on the redistricting commission have asked the high court to move the state’s May 3 primary election to June 28 to allow ample time to craft the maps and make necessary adjustments to ballots. Justices have set a Wednesday deadline for responses to that request.
Separately, a three-judge panel has been appointed to hear a federal lawsuit brought by a group of Republican voters asking essentially the opposite. The parties want the court to greenlight the most recent legislative maps — which were declared unconstitutional on March 17 — because the May 3 primary is so close at hand.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is both the state’s elections chief and a member of the redistricting commission, paused certain preparations for the primary last week after the latest maps were invalidated.
A Democratic group that’s challenging Ohio’s congressional map also has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to delay the date of the primary.
In a new suit filed Monday, the National Democratic Redistricting Commission, led by Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder, argues that the latest plan for U.S. House districts is still gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Replies to their complaint are due Tuesday.