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How redistricting will affect Miami Valley candidates and voters

Voting stickers are seen at a polling place.

A federal court has ordered Ohio to use legislative maps that the state Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional and to hold a primary on Aug. 2. WYSO’s Leila Goldstein spoke with Lee Hannah, an associate professor of political science at Wright State University. He explained how the new maps will affect local voters in the Miami Valley, and why voters and candidates might be confused.

[The following transcript has been edited for clarity.]

Lee Hannah: Candidates had to file with the state back in February to run in these races, and they have to live within their district. They filed thinking that the map looked different than it actually turned out looking in some of these cases. For example, we have Willis Blackshear, who represents the Dayton area, running unopposed, even though his district got quite a bit more competitive because parts of Riverside are now in that Dayton district. Similarly, we have Phil Plummer, a Republican, running unopposed because, again, candidates were filing back in February, even though his district has gotten quite a bit more competitive because this district north of Dayton has now added parts of Englewood and Trotwood, which leaned a little bit left.
In the Senate, we have a few instances where senators have added constituents, sometimes over 100,000 new constituents, and they're not up for reelection until 2024.

Leila Goldstein: How might all of this back and forth with the maps create voter confusion and affect turnout in the area?

Hannah: This is going to lead to a lot of confusion because a number of voters think that they have already voted in the one primary, which was the major race, the Senate race that, especially on the Republican side, was widely watched, as well as the governor's race. For many voters, they may be surprised that they're going to have to make decisions again here in August, and that is going to lead to some confusion. Then when we get to the actual general election, some people are going to find out that they're in a different district and may be represented by candidates that they didn't necessarily know or do their research on.

Goldstein: How do you think these last minute changes might affect the overall nature of the election?

Hannah: Typically what we think about with elections is that everybody understands the rules. Everybody knows the rules of the game going in and everybody knows the lay of the land. They understand the districts. They have some sense of the partisan lean of a district, and they are making decisions about running themselves or the parties are making decisions about fielding candidates with perfect information.
What we now see is kind of a backwards process, and in a lot of ways the process has been confusing, convoluted, backwards, contentious. We're left with this scenario in the 2022 elections where it could have some downstream consequences, especially if the state level races are close.
People may look at some of these state House races and think, there could have been a real difference here if only we had fielded a candidate in this race and not let that person run uncontested. You can see some of those scenarios and some of that second guessing, which is all born of the fact that this process got so drawn out.

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.