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Another redistricting deadline coming up; no action expected from Ohio legislature

The state's highest court struck down the map for congressional voting districts on July 19, giving lawmakers 30 days to draw a map that wasn't unduly partisan.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — *EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal.

As the deadline approaches for the Ohio General Assembly to redraw congressional district maps ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court, it seems no action is planned.

The state's highest court struck down the map for congressional voting districts in the state on July 19, giving the GA 30 days to draw a map that wasn't unduly partisan, as they said the previous two maps had been.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Shawnee Township) did not respond to requests for comment on whether or not his chamber would be meeting before their return from break in the Fall to discuss or create a congressional map.

A spokesperson for Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) did not comment other than to point to comments Huffman had made to Hannah News Service. In the comments, Huffman said the Senate has no plans to return for redistricting and getting the legislative body’s "collective attention" for committee hearings and action might be "problematic as an understatement."

If the GA can't (or won't) come to an agreement on congressional redistricting, the court has given the Ohio Redistricting Commission another 30 days past the GA deadline to send justices a new map.

The ORC is made up of majority Republicans, including Gov. Mike DeWine, state Auditor Keith Faber, state Sen. Rob McColley and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, along with Democratic House Minority Leader Allison Russo. Co-chairs on the commission are Democratic state Sen. Vernon Sykes and Republican state Rep. Jeff LaRe.

LaRe and McColley took over for Huffman and Cupp, who left the commission before the last legislative redistricting debate citing other legislative priorities that demanded their attention.

Congressional maps have only been addressed twice by the commission, compared to the six times the ORC has been asked to draw legislative maps for state House and Senate districts. The last time a legislative map was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, the ORC did not meet to redraw maps, and LaRe sent a letter to Sykes saying they did not plan to act.

Legislative redistricting was overwritten temporarily, as a three-judge federal court panel ordered the use of a map passed in February, despite the fact that it was rejected as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

Legislative leaders have frequently stood against the orders of the Supreme Court, saying the judicial branch did not have the authority to reject what they considered a legislative matter.

Though redistricting reforms passed by a staunch majority of Ohioans gave the Supreme Court final say on the legality of the maps, court documents from GOP members of the ORC argue that the commission is "independent" of other state agencies, and members can't be held in contempt by the Ohio Supreme Court, as was requested by anti-gerrymandering groups after previous missed commission deadlines and unconstitutional maps.

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