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GOP leaders dispute timeline for new congressional map as groups say lawmakers missed deadline

 Voter rights advocates scrutinize the Congressional district map proposed by Republican lawmakers.
Voter rights advocates scrutinize the Congressional district map proposed by Republican lawmakers.

Voting rights groups and community organizers are clashing with Republican legislators over the timeline issued by the Ohio Supreme Court for a new congressional district map.

On July 19, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the congressional map — adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission — as unconstitutionally gerrymandered and gave the legislature 30 days to redraw the map.

Those 30 days passed without any action by the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.

But in a memo, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) told House Republican members that, "The Ohio Constitutional timeline for the General Assembly to enact a new congressional map does not commence until all appeals are final."

He added, “Matters involving congressional redistricting include elements of U.S. Constitutional and federal law which are appealable to the U.S. Supreme Court from decisions of a court which is described in federal law as a ‘state court of last resort’, which in this matter is the Ohio Supreme Court.”

Along with Cupp’s memo, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has said he would like to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the congressional map, which was adopted by the commission on March 2.

Jen Miller, executive director for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said Cupp and Huffman are wrong on the timeline and added that the new redistricting process was approved by voters in 2018 through a ballot measure written by state lawmakers.

“So what we have from Speaker Cup and President Huffman is this really weird, absurd argument that tries to pull in federal law when the Ohio congressional districts have been struck down based on state law and the authority to do so by the Ohio Supreme Court they helped craft,” said Miller.

Although it was ruled to be unconstitutional, that congressional map was used for the May primary and will be used for the November general election. Any new plan that is adopted would be for the 2024 election.

The map creates 10 Republican districts, three Democratic districts, and two toss-up districts that lean in favor of the Democrats. That gives Republican a 66% advantage for Ohio’s congressional delegation in a state that splits 54% Republican and 46% Democratic.

The Ohio Supreme Court has struck down state legislative district proposals five times and congressional district proposals, twice.

As Miller pointed out, there are three supreme court races on the ballot in November which could shift the bench to a more favorable dynamic for Republicans.

“I think they are trying to run out the clock in part to see who will be the new Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. They aren't delaying because they legitimately think it's good public policy. They understand the constitution. They understand the role that the Ohio Supreme Court has and the authority that the Ohio Supreme Court has. They are simply just playing games with voters,” said Miller.

After the deadline for the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Redistricting Commission would have 30 days to draft a new map.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.