The co-chairman’s flapping of GOP legislative leaders has stalled the work of the Ohio Redistricting Commission

Ohio’s latest attempt to draw fair political maps collapsed amid Republican infighting on Wednesday, raising the question of whether a commission unable to even appoint its own co-chairs will be able to negotiate a bipartisan redistricting solution within the few weeks allotted to it.

Governor Mike DeWine reluctantly issued a resolution to reconstitute the Ohio Redistricting Commission. That was despite the failure of fellow Republicans Senate President Matt Hoffman and House Speaker Jason Stevens — from separate locations offsite — to reach any agreement on who should be the GOP co-chair.

Without their joint appointment, the committee could not begin to fix House district maps that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled were unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans five different times.

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

As commissioners were sworn in on Wednesday and sworn to uphold the U.S. and state Constitutions, there were wry chuckles from some of the voting rights activists in the room.

“The Ohio Redistricting Commission is not doing its job,” said Katherine Turser, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, a good government group, adding that does not bode well for creating fair maps.

“If you can’t hear each other, you’re going to have a hard time hearing the community, the people who come to testify,” she said.

DeWine adjourned the committee until 8 a.m. Friday, but said if a Republican co-chair was not chosen by 5:30 p.m. Thursday, that meeting would not move forward.

“Hope springs eternal,” DeWine told reporters before the meeting, amid an hour-long delay during which groups of whispering committee members and their aides waited for Huffman and Stevens to settle. Two other state office holders on the committee — Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Auditor Keith Faber — also had to stop working nearby because of the impasse.

In an Aug. 30 letter to commissioners, LaRose advised that “the redistricting process could conflict with statutory requirements for election administration” if maps are not completed by Sept. 22. But he set the latest possible date for submitting the information to the state of Ohio. The 88th district council elections are on 6 November.

The two Democrats on the committee — House Minority Leader Alison Russo and Senate Minority Leader Nikki Antonio — presented a united front, saying they were willing to appoint their co-chair and were just waiting for Republicans to work out their differences.

“This shows how broken this process is, and what it has become,” Russo said. “We’ve had it for 16 months, and we had more than six months before that, so there’s really no excuses here. Again, I think this just points to the flaw in where this process is. The committee last met on May 5, 2022.”

That’s why a new process is needed that takes control away from politicians — as the proposed 2024 ballot measure will do, Antonio said.

Huffman’s appointee to the committee, Republican state Sen. Rob McCauley, said the Senate’s desire is to have a chance to co-chair this time, as the state representative represents the Republican Party during the latest round of activity. But he said the decision was ultimately up to Hoffman and Stevens.

Huffman has indicated his plans to return to the Ohio House of Representatives next year and run for speaker against Stevens. He maintains close ties with some House Republicans who backed a different candidate for speaker last winter, in a dispute that inflamed partisan divisions that still plague the chamber.

He told reporters at State House on Wednesday that McCauley is his likely successor as Senate president and the chamber’s lead negotiator on who should co-chair the redistricting commission. Huffman said he spoke once with Stevens and confirmed that it was “the Senate’s turn” to lead, and that Stevens agreed to talk about it — which was what was happening.

“We will work to resolve the matter,” he said. “There have been big conversations, as I understand it, in terms of the map, which is the real product, not who’s hammering the hammer and all that.”


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.

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