GOP legislative leaders’ co-chair flap has brought the Ohio Redistricting Commission to a standstill

Sep 13, 2023, 10:53 AM | Updated: 2:42 pm

FILE - A map of Ohio congressional districts is displayed during a committee hearing at the Ohio St...

FILE - A map of Ohio congressional districts is displayed during a committee hearing at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 16, 2021. The Ohio Attorney General's Office has rejected petition language for a constitutional amendment aimed at remaking Ohio’s troubled political-mapmaking system. Republican Dave Yost said Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, that the submission, by the group Citizens Not Politicians, failed to present a fair and truthful summary of what is proposed. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth, File)

(AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s latest attempt to draw fair political maps crumbled amid Republican infighting Wednesday, begging the question of whether a commission unable even to appoint its co-chairs will be able to negotiate a bipartisan redistricting solution within the few short weeks it’s been allotted.

Gov. Mike DeWine grudgingly gaveled the reconstituted Ohio Redistricting Commission to order. That was despite fellow Republicans Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Jason Stephens — presumably from separate locations somewhere off-site — failing to come to any agreement on who the GOP’s co-chair should be.

Without their joint appointee, the panel was unable to begin the business of fixing Statehouse district maps that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans five different times.

“Our fear is more of the same,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

As commissioners were sworn in Wednesday and took their oaths to uphold the U.S. and state constitutions, ironic chuckles arose from some voting rights activists in the room.

“The Ohio Redistricting Commission isn’t functional,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, a good government group, adding that bodes poorly for the creation of fair maps.

“If you can’t hear one another, you’re going to have trouble hearing the community, and hearing the folks that come to testify,” she said.

DeWine recessed the commission until 8 a.m. Friday, but said if Republicans’ co-chair is not selected by 5:30 p.m. Thursday, that meeting won’t go forward.

“Hope springs eternal,” DeWine had quipped to reporters during an hourlong delay during which clusters of whispering commission members and their aides waited for Huffman’s and Stephens’ compromise. Two other state officeholders on the commission — Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Auditor Keith Faber — also were forced to idle nearby because of the impasse.

In an Aug. 30 letter to commissioners, LaRose advised that “the redistricting process could potentially conflict with the statutory requirements of election administration” if maps are not complete by Sept. 22. But he placed the latest possible date for providing the information to Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections at Nov. 6.

The two Democrats on the commission — House Minority Leader Allison Russo and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio — presented a united front, saying they were ready to appoint their co-chair and merely waiting for Republicans to work out their differences.

“This speaks to how broken this process is, and has become,” Russo said. “We’ve had 16 months, and had longer than six months before that, so there are really no excuses here. Again, I think this just speaks to the dysfunction of where this process is.” The commission last met May 5, 2022.

Antonio said this is why a new process is needed that takes control away from politicians — as a proposed 2024 ballot measure would do.

Huffman’s appointee to the commission, Republican state Sen. Rob McColley, said the Senate’s desire was to have its opportunity to co-chair this time around, since a state representative represented the GOP during the last round of activity. But he said the decision is ultimately up to Huffman and Stephens.

Huffman has signaled plans to return to the Ohio House next year and run for the speakership against Stephens. He maintains close relationships with some House Republicans who backed a rival speaker candidate last winter, a faceoff that fueled party divisions that have lingered in the chamber.

He told reporters at the Statehouse on Wednesday that McColley is his likely successor as Senate president and the chamber’s lead negotiator regarding who should co-chair the Redistricting Commission. Huffman said he spoke once to Stephens and asserted it is the Senate’s “turn” to lead, and that Stephens agreed to talk about it — which is what was happening.

“We’ll get it worked out,” he said. “There have been considerable conversations, as I understand it, regarding the map, which is the real product, not who’s banging the gavel and all that.”

Stephens’ commission appointee, GOP state Rep. Jeff LaRe, said in a statement that the House looks forward to collaborating with other members of the panel.

“It is imperative members of the commission operate in good faith with the shared goal of delivering strong representation for the people of Ohio,” he said.


Reporter Samantha Hendrickson contributed to this report. Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

United States News

Associated Press

2 arrested in drive-by attack at New Mexico baseball stadium that killed 11-year-old boy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two people were arrested Thursday in connection with a shooting outside an Albuquerque baseball stadium that killed an 11-year-old boy and prompted the New Mexico governor to issue a controversial gun ban. Jose Romero, 22, and Nathen Garley, 21, were held for the Sept. 6 shooting after an Albuquerque Isotopes game […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Some crossings on US-Mexico border still shut as cities, agents confront rise in migrant arrivals

EAGLE PASS, Texas (AP) — The week began in Eagle Pass with rumors that large crowds of migrants might show up. On Friday, the small Texas border city was scrambling: nearly 9,000 asylum-seekers and counting had crossed from Mexico, an international bridge remained closed and a 3-year-old boy had drowned in the Rio Grande. “Before […]

4 hours ago

In a frame grab from video, Kyan Bovee flies over Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. The Detroit teen...

Associated Press

Black teens learn to fly and aim for careers in aviation in the footsteps of Tuskegee Airmen

DETROIT (AP) — Marie Ronny and Kyan Bovee expect their futures to take off. Literally. The Black teens from Detroit are part of a free program teaching young people how to fly, while exposing them to careers in aviation, an industry in which people of color are traditionally underrepresented. Their classrooms are the skies above […]

4 hours ago

Adnan Amin, CEO and number two official at the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, ans...

Associated Press

Top warming talks official hopes for ‘course correction’ and praises small steps in climate efforts

NEW YORK (AP) — A top official helping to oversee upcoming international climate negotiations hopes to prove critics wrong — and surprise them with a “course correction” for an ever-warming world. But don’t expect that big a turn. Adnan Amin, the CEO and No. 2 official at the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai […]

5 hours ago

A volunteer from the GAF Roofing Academy helps replace the roof of Joe Capers, who has lived in New...

Associated Press

Back at old job, Anthony Mackie lends star power to New Orleans’ post-Ida roof repair effort

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Movie star Anthony Mackie was back in his home town — and back at an old job — as he took part in a program to repair roofs damaged by natural disasters for people who aren’t financially or physically able to get the work done themselves. The New Orleans-born Mackie, perhaps […]

5 hours ago

Becky Hormuth poses for a photo with her son Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, in Wentzville, Mo. About fo...

Associated Press

Some providers are dropping gender-affirming care for kids even in cases where it’s legal

ST. LOUIS (AP) — As Republican-led states have rushed to ban gender-affirming for minors, some families with transgender children found a bit of solace: At least they lived in states that would allow those already receiving puberty blockers or hormone therapy to continue. But in some places, including Missouri and North Dakota, the care has […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Ignite Digital

How to unlock the power of digital marketing for Phoenix businesses

All businesses around the Valley hopes to maximize their ROI with current customers and secure a greater market share in the digital sphere.

Sanderson Ford...

Sanderson Ford

Sanderson Ford congratulates D-backs’ on drive to great first half of 2023

The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a red-hot first half of the major league season, and Sanderson Ford wants to send its congratulations to the ballclub.


Mayo Clinic

Game on! Expert sports physicals focused on you

With tryouts quickly approaching, now is the time for parents to schedule physicals for their student-athlete. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires that all student-athletes must have a physical exam completed before participating in team practices or competition.

GOP legislative leaders’ co-chair flap has brought the Ohio Redistricting Commission to a standstill