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Ohio Loses One Of 16 Congressional Seats In New Census Count

Ohio is one of seven states losing a Congressional seat, along with California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Ohio is one of seven states losing a Congressional seat, along with California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Ohio will lose a seat in the US House of Representatives starting with next year's election, bringing its total to 15 – its smallest Congressional delegation since 1833. And it’s unclear who among the 12 Republicans and four Democrats stands to lose their district when the lines are redrawn for next year’s election.

331,449,281 people were living in the United States of America on April 1, 2020, according to the US Census Bureau. That's a 7.4% increase over the 2010 Census. It's lower than the 2000-2010 census, and the 2nd-slowest growth in US history.

Each district will represent761,169 people.

But the bad news for Ohio that was expected for years was confirmed by Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the US Census Bureau.

“Seven states will each lose one seat in the House: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia," Jarmin said in a live press conference on the Census Bureau's website.

Ohio’s population grew by 2.3%, making it the seventh most populous state. But that growth wasn’t enough to keep up with faster growing states in the south and west.

Ohio native Kyle Kondik is at Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He noted Ohio’s delegation has been shrinking since a high of 24 seats in 1973.

And he also finds the timing of the decision of a Democratic Congressman to join Ohio’s open US Senate race matches up with this Census announcement.

“If you gave Tim Ryan a truth serum, he probably would admit that part of the reason he's running for Senate is because his district won, frankly, isn't all that Democratic anymore, and too, is seems likely to be dismantled as part of this redistricting process," Kondik said.

The process to remake Ohio’s Congressional map from 16 districts to 15 will be done under new voter approved rules starting after August 16, when detailed mapable population data will be available from last year’s census.

Jen Miller heads the League of Women Voters of Ohio, which was part of the group that fought for the ballot issue to change the map-drawing method. Miller said there are a lot of things that could be done right away to get ready for that.

“There are four members of the redistricting commission who have not yet been named – we could name those. We could get legislative caucuses the funding they need to start hiring experts and doing research," Miller said.  "We can have public hearings on the technical details. We could set up the website that Ohioans could then use to follow the redistricting process and even submit their own map.”

And there may be a need to set a new timeline for when potential candidates would turn in paperwork and maybe even a new date for next year’s Congressional primary because the data is coming in later than usual.

Those new voter-approved rules are intended to bring more transparency and minority party buy in into the process, and to stop another creation like the current map, which some critics call among the most gerrymandered and partisan in the country.

But Republicans still dominate in state government, and Kondik says Donald Trump’s win in Ohio by eight points in both 2016 and 2020 shows it’s unlikely the Congressional map will end up with an even red-blue split.

“I don't know what a ‘fair map’ in Ohio would look like, but I don't think it's one that would be evenly divided between the two parties, given the way the state has trended over the years," Kondik said.

"I guess the question is is, will the map just be like 12-3 Republican instead of 12-4 Republican? Or can the Republicans somehow get to 13-2 if they really try to ram through a map? Or will it be, you know, will the Republicans end up losing a little bit of ground because it's a less partisan process? I think there I think there are a lot of a lot of possible outcomes here.”

The Census Bureau said Ohio was close to keeping its 16th seat. It would be the 437th seat if the US House added two more members.
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.