Governor DeWine signs new congressional district map into law

COLUMBUS – Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Saturday promulgated a map of new congressional districts that will be in effect for the next four years, despite objections from Democrats and voting rights groups.

States must redraw their congressional districts every 10 years to reflect new population numbers. Under this year’s U.S. census results, delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ohio lost a seat in Congress starting next year, dropping it from 16 to 15.

The new card will only last 4 years, instead of the normal 10, as it was not a bipartisan decision – the card as a whole would still face legal challenges.

“There is a provision in the Constitution that says you cannot draw the cards to favor or oppose a party,” said David Niven, professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. “And so there is a very compelling argument to be made, that the only reason you would draw a map that connects Cincinnati to Warren County instead of Cincinnati to the rest of Hamilton County, is to favor or disadvantage a party. . And you can see the same pattern in other places across the state. ”

The new law creates no more than three safe Democratic districts out of 15 new seats in the United States House in a state where voters are divided by around 54% Republicans and 46% Democrats.

The populated counties of Cuyahoga and Hamilton – home to Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively, and their concentrations of Democratic voters – are divided in three ways each. Franklin County, home to Columbus, is split in two, and the western suburb of Cleveland in Lorain County is part of a district that stretches to the Indiana border, nearly 3 hours away. of road.

“They ended up dividing Hamilton County into three different parts, with those three parts being heavily influenced by voters from other counties,” Niven said. “So Hamilton will go from two members of Congress to three. But as is the case now, those three members are going to be influenced by voters outside of Hamilton County.”

DeWine said in a statement that, compared to other proposals from House and Senate lawmakers on both sides, the Senate legislation he signed “makes the most progress in producing a fair, compact and competitive map.” .

The redistribution measure cleared the state legislature along party lines with House approval Thursday after a frantic sprint through both chambers, amid praise from majority Republicans.

Democrats have called the Republican-led mapping process unfair, partisan and secretive. The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday, just around 4 p.m. after the new map was released. Princeton’s non-partisan project Gerrymandering gave the card an F.

Picture provided

Ohio Congress Card 2021, adopted by Ohio House and sent to Governor Mike DeWine’s office.

DeWine, however, said on Saturday that the new map “had fewer divisions between counties and cities” than recent proposals and the current congressional map. He said this kept Lucas and Stark counties and the Mahoning Valley in single Congressional districts “for the first time in decades” and kept Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo “all whole on the river. same Congress card for the first time since the 1840s.

State Representative DJ Swearingen, a Republican, defended the card in debate Thursday as being fair, constitutional and not unduly favoring a political party or its incumbents. He echoed the sponsorship arguments of GOP Senator Rob McColley, calling the plan superior in terms of competitiveness and in the spirit of a 2018 constitutional amendment.

“If you have the right candidate on the right questions, you can win a competitive district,” McColley said. “Whereas the Democratic card that was proposed to the House offered a determined result. “

Fair Districts Ohio, a coalition of voting rights groups and labor organizations, called on the governor to overturn the bill. Executive Director Jen Miller of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, a member organization, said that instead of a “bipartisan and transparent redistribution,” leaders had “disrespected voters, trampled on the Constitution of the United States. Ohio and rigged the congressional card to serve partisan political agents rather than fairly. represent the Ohioans.

The Ohio Democratic Party on Saturday lambasted the governor for signing the bill, with party chair Elizabeth Walters accusing DeWine of “naked and partisan self-interest.”

“DeWine and the Ohio GOP are doing everything and everything they can to stop voters from holding them accountable at the ballot box as they continue to betray Ohioans every moment,” Walters said.

The mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley, accused the governor of being “more interested in maintaining political power and appeasing his party before a controversial primary than in respecting the will of the Ohioans.”

As part of a new process established as part of a 2018 popular constitutional amendment, creating a 10-year map – ideally – would have required strong Democratic support. Without it, the plan will only last four years.

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