Ohio Political Mappers Face State High Court | national news

By JULIE CARR SMYTH – Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Members of Ohio’s Political Mapping Committee were ordered Thursday to appear before the Ohio Supreme Court, as the pressure has increased on the body to find consensus on lines for the United States House and state legislative districts that can satisfy both the political parties and the high court.

The group includes Republican Governor Mike DeWine, whose son, Judge Pat DeWine, recused himself from the proceedings, scheduled for Tuesday. Members of the Commission — which also include the Ohio Secretary of State, Auditor, Speaker of the House and Minority Leader and President of the Senate, as well as an additional Senator — are authorized to bring their lawyers.

The face-off would be the most dramatic turn to date between the Deadlocked Ohio Redistricting Commission and the divided courtwho repeatedly invalidated by 4-3 votes gerrymandered cards sent to him from the Ohio Statehouse block.

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The commission planned to meet again on Thursday, although no concrete action was on its agenda.

The dispute unfolds with the fate of Ohio’s May 3 primary at stake. The secretary of state, who leads the election, and the state attorney general, who is the state’s attorney, urged a state legislature controlled by other Republicans to move the date to avoid violations of federal and state law.

So far, no GOP-backed effort to do so has emerged. House Democrats introduced legislation last month to move the date one month to June 7, anticipating potential delays associated with redistricting.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose was forced to certify 2,022 primary ballots earlier this week with the names of candidates whose races are linked to the missing cards omitted. Attorney General Dave Yost warns that “a thousand” legal questions will arise if the primary is not moved soon.

Republican Senate Chairman Matt Huffman, a member of the committee, said Wednesday that GOP mapmakers could present updated legislative maps for a vote as early as Thursday.

This promise of future action was among the reasons cited by the commission and its members for seeking a stay of the threat of contempt of court related to missing the Feb. 17 deadline for action imposed by the Supreme Court.

However, Democratic Senator Vernon Sykes, co-chairman of the panel, said his party had not been involved in those discussions – possibly hinting at a third round of party line voting on any new plan.

Already, the commission has sent two sets of Republican-drawn, Republican-backed legislative maps to the Ohio Supreme Court, only to have both disabled like unconstitutionally gerrymander. Each would have been good for only four years, rather than the 10 years envisioned to adjust to the once-a-decade U.S. census, as they ran out of Democratic votes.

Litigation pending in federal court of a group of Republican voters requests that the most recent panel card be used this year, although it has been invalidated. It’s not yet clear what the federal court’s role might be in the disagreement, as Ohio voters gave the Ohio Supreme Court original and exclusive jurisdiction in the nascent redistricting process.

And the 99 seats in the Ohio House and the 33 seats in the Ohio Senate are not the only ones in question. The high court also invalidated a map of US House districts approved by the state legislature and signed by DeWine.

Lawmakers took the opportunity to redraw that map at the committee, citing the fact that any bill they passed without Democratic support would have lacked a crucial time-saving emergency clause.

The Redistricting Commission has until March to submit the updated Congressional map, which must take into account Ohio loses U.S. House seat due to demographic backwardness. The adjustment brings the State to 15 representatives, against 16 currently.

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