Ohio Redistricting Commission moves to hire outside consultants as deadline for new maps looms

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), commissioner co-chair, talks about the Ohio Redistricting Commission's next moves after a March 21, 2022 meeting. [Andy Chow /  Statehouse News Bureau]
Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), commissioner co-chair, talks about the Ohio Redistricting Commission's next moves after a March 21, 2022 meeting. [Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau]
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The Ohio Redistricting Commission is poised to hire two national experts on redistricting, but first commissioners want the consultants to come to Ohio and fill out disclosure forms to reveal possible conflicts of interest.

The two consultants suggested were Douglas Johnson, National Demographics Corporation president, and Michael McDonald, University of Florida political science professor.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) suggested Johnson and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) suggested McDonald.

The commission is looking at beginning a new mapmaking process after their third attempt at state legislative maps was rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court.

That new process would see the Republican and Democratic caucus mapmakers work together on one plan. Previously those mapmakers have drafted separate plans, with the commission only adopting the Republican-drawn maps. Every map the commission has adopted has only received votes from Republican members. That lack of bipartisanship would have meant the maps, had they been ruled consititutional, would be valid for only four years instead of ten.

Cupp said the idea of bringing in independent outside consultants was prompted by the last Supreme Court ruling.

"They might look at it with different eyes, they might have suggestions that haven't been looked at before, and also they would be working for the commission itself," said Cupp.

The details on who should be hired as consultants, whether they have conflicts of interest, their fee and how soon could they could get to Ohio dominated the Monday evening commission meeting.

The commission went into recess for part of the evening to get some of those questions answered.

The process for bringing in consultants took up a lot of time when the commission has little time left to adopt new maps, a concern voiced by Auditor Keith Faber (R-Ohio).

"It certainly adds more time to a ticking clock but when the court issued those orders, they had to anticipate that they were creating additional procedural suggestions that were going to slow the process," said Faber.

In a court filing Monday, the Democratic members of the commission asked the Ohio Supreme Court to move the primary date from May 3 to June 28. Commission members were asked to file their responses to that request by Wednesday morning.

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

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