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

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

An arrest has been made and charges filed in Pennsylvania slaying of pregnant Amish woman

SPARTANSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man was arrested Saturday and charged with the slaying of a pregnant Amish woman whose body was found last week. Shawn C. Cranston, 52, of Corry, has been charged with criminal homicide, criminal homicide of an unborn child, burglary and criminal trespass, Pennsylvania State Police said. He was denied […]

24 minutes ago

FILE - Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. ...

Associated Press

How clean is the dirt on Hunter Biden? A key Republican source is charged with lying to the FBI

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alexander Smirnov was cast by Republicans as one of the FBI’s most trusted informants, offering a “highly credible” account of brazen public corruption by Joe Biden that formed a pillar of the House impeachment investigation of the Democratic president. Then, last month, the script changed dramatically. charged with lying to the FBI, […]

52 minutes ago

Associated Press

Powerful storm in California and Nevada shuts interstate and dumps snow on mountains

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A powerful blizzard raged overnight into Saturday in the Sierra Nevada as the biggest storm of the season shut down a long stretch of Interstate-80 in California and gusty winds and heavy rain hit lower elevations, leaving tens of thousands of customers without power. Up to 10 feet (3 meters) of […]

6 hours ago

Musher Dutch Johnson, a kennel manager at The August Foundation for Alaska Racing Dogs, runs a dog ...

Associated Press

Alaska’s Iditarod dogs get neon visibility harnesses after 5 were fatally hit while training

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska’s official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails. For the first time, mushers who line up for […]

9 hours ago

FILE - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference...

Associated Press

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton beat impeachment. Now he wants Super Tuesday revenge on his foes

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton beat impeachment. On Super Tuesday, he wants political revenge. The Republican, who just six months ago was on the brink of removal from office, is charging into Texas’ primaries on a dramatic campaign to oust dozens in his own party. They include rank-and-file legislators, state judges […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

2 races, including crowded chief justice campaign, could push Arkansas court further to the right

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two races for the Arkansas Supreme Court, including a crowded chief justice campaign, could push a court that’s been targeted by outside conservative groups even further to the right. The nonpartisan elections on Tuesday for chief justice and another seat could have major implications on cases before the court or […]

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

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