Ohio officials near redistricting deadline as group pushes to change redistricting laws

Elected leaders in Ohio are fast approaching a deadline to draw legislative districting maps. As the Ohio Redistricting Commission nears that deadline, a citizen-led ballot initiative aims to change who draws those districting lines.
As the Ohio Redistricting Commission nears that deadline, a citizen-led ballot initiative aims to change who draws those districting lines.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 7:50 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - Gov. Mike DeWine (R - Ohio) called a meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission on Sept.13, the first time the commission has met since May of last year.

According to Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R - Ohio), the commission of lawmakers and other state officials should approve final districting maps by Sept. 22 in order to make sure elections run smoothly in 2024. But last week’s meeting ended after only a few minutes because the legislative representatives on the commission have yet to appoint co-chairs to lead the committee.

“At this point, I would normally turn the meeting over to the co-chairs,” DeWine said during the meeting. “The co-chairs are not appointed, have not been appointed. We’re going to have to recess.”

DeWine hoped to have the commission reconvene on Sept. 15, but that meeting was cancelled. No new meeting to start the process of redrawing district maps had been set as of Sept. 18.

Washington County Board of Elections Deputy Director Karen Pawloski said not having those maps on time could make it hard for boards across the state to organize their local elections. “There’s a lot of deadlines that the boards of elections have to meet,” Pawloski said. “We have to do logic and accuracy testing on all of our voting machines. We also have to make sure that the ballot is correct. We’re in the process of proofing the ballot for this November’s election.”

Pawloski said meeting those deadlines will be more difficult without up-to-date districting maps. “Yeah, it runs into our deadlines,” Pawloski said. “And, you know, I’m very hopeful that the redistricting committee can make maps that are fair and equal to all Ohioans.”

Skepticism about just how fair the maps the current Redistricting Commission can draw has led some to push for an amendment to the Ohio constitution to replace the current Redistricting Commission with a Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The amendment would ban current or former politicians and lobbyists from sitting on the commission. The new commission would have 15 members from across the state of Ohio -- five each from the two major political parties and five independents.

According to Citizens Not Politicians, the group behind the proposed amendment, the amendment will “end gerrymandering by empowering citizens, not politicians, to draw fair districts using an open and transparent process.”

Karen Pawloski said she thinks the proposed amendment could be a good idea. “Personally, I think it’s a great idea,” Pawloski said. “I think it makes sense to have a citizens’-led committee doing that.”

The proposed amendment would need approval from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to end up on ballots next year.

Yost has rejected the amendment twice, most recently on September 14.

Yost wrote that the summary submitted alongside the amendment didn’t accurately reflect the text of the amendment. Following the rejection, Citizens Not Politicians released the following statement:

“We are disappointed and frustrated that the Attorney General has chosen to reject our petition summary for a second time. We adjusted our summary language as the Attorney General requested on the first submission, and we know our summary language was accurate. But we will collect new signatures to refile again. The people of Ohio are fed up with our broken redistricting system. It’s long past time to put citizens, not politicians, in charge of map drawing, require that maps be fair, and require that maps be drawn in an open and transparent process that protects voters.”

Citizens Not Politicians

The group intends to gather signatures from Ohio citizens and refile the proposed amendment.