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Mailbag: What is the process for Ohio redistricting in 2021?

Tyler Buchanan, Ohio Capital Journal

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Pictured is Ohio's congressional delegation as it has looked after the 2012, '14, '16, '18 and '20 elections.

It comes to no surprise that Ohioans’ Spotify Wrapped messages show an overwhelming amount of time spent reading the Ohio Capital Journal Mailbag. Move over, Ariana Grande!

Let’s get to it.

Got a question about Ohio politics/government? Send them by email to tbuchanan@ohiocapitaljournal.com or tweet them to @tylerjoelb. 

“I know questions about redistricting have been answered broadly but I’m interested in every detail. I remember something about the numbers and program being available to the public to submit district plans. Did I dream that? What are the exact rules and processes?” – @KeMowelli, on Twitter.

“Curious as whether a process for redistricting has been laid out yet?” – @MElliottRadio, on Twitter.

Answer: The redistricting efforts in Ohio will take place next year. It can seem complicated at first glance, but it’s a relatively straight-forward process that is well worth your time to follow.

Every 10 years, Ohio’s legislative districts are redrawn to accurately reflect changes in population. This goes for state government districts (the Ohio General Assembly working in Columbus) and the federal government districts (Congress working in Washington, D.C.). Mapmakers use U.S. Census data, in this case from the 2020 Census, to draw the new districts.

As you might know, redistricting can become very controversial when maps are drawn to disproportionately benefit certain political parties and candidates. I’ve written before about how Ohio’s congressional districts are gerrymandered to broadly benefit the Republican Party (though, to be sure, incumbent officeholders of both parties reap the rewards of the map as currently drawn).

The process of redrawing these maps has changed greatly since the last time Ohio went through it. Citizens approved new systems for drawing both the General Assembly districts and the congressional districts.

Here are some key takeaways for you to know:

  • Transparency — The new map drawing processes have transparency baked in. Map proposals must be made public before officials vote to approve them. There will also be  public hearings to allow for citizen input.
  • Bipartisanship — Unlike the 2010 system, the 2020 redistricting effort is designed to promote bipartisan approval. Representatives of both parties must approve the maps for them to be in place for the coming decade. Without bipartisan support, maps are only in place for four years before having to be redrawn again.
  • Map Standards — Those drawing the maps have to abide by certain standards, some of which are required. These standards involve how the districts are shaped, how many residents live in each, etc.

I created flow charts which outline these redistricting processes. Included are some deadlines that officials have to follow in order for these maps to be ready for the 2022 election cycle. (You can zoom in to view the flow chart in close detail.)

Ohio General Assembly redistricting process:

Ohio Congressional redistricting process:

There’s a long road ahead, and Ohio Capital Journal will be following the redistricting efforts closely over the coming year. We’ll be detailing the members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission; the map proposals and how they compare to the former maps; the votes taken; and any legal challenges that may arise after the maps are adopted.

“I was wondering about the history of contested coroner races. I know there was one this year in Adams County, but how frequently are coroner races contested, and if they have debates, what are the main topics in those debates?”– @manthello, on Twitter.

Answer: There aren’t many contested coroner races in Ohio, but those that happen tend to be matters of life and death.

All 88 counties have an elected county coroner. Why is it an elected position? Beats me, but state law requires a county coroner to be a licensed physician. Once elected (or appointed), they have to complete 16 hours of training programs put on by the Ohio State Coroners Association. Some say the OSCA conferences are lively affairs, though personally attending one would bore me to death.

Hoping to learn more about the history of coroners, I perused the OSCA website. Did you know a physician named Antisius examined the dead body of Julius Caesar and ruled that a specific wound to the thorax caused his death? That’s going to come in handy as a contestant on Jeopardy! some day.

As for how many contested coroner races there were in 2020, the answer is seven.

Seven contested races out of 88 counties may seem like a small number.

It’s certainly fewer than the number of contested races for other county offices: prosecutor (13), treasurer (16), recorder (16), clerk of courts (19) and sheriff (20). There were nearly 100 contested races for county commissioner.

But county coroner did edge out the number of contested engineer races. According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s official canvass data, there was not a single contested engineer race in all of Ohio this year. 

As for the debates, I think back to covering county fairs and watching 4-H exhibitors have to identify animal body parts during the barn shows. I sort of wish a coroner debate featured the two candidates having to name all the bones or something.

The Warren Tribune-Chronicle reported on its contested county race, with the candidates referring to their medical backgrounds and experience. The two said “they want to create and promote education programs to address suicide and substance abuse disorders.”

There was a real humdinger of a coroner race in Muskingum County. Incumbent coroner Charles Feicht planned on retiring, the Zanesville Times-Recorder reported, but instead decided to run for re-election.

I guess when you’re the coroner, you have to trust your gut and play things by ear. Feicht may have had cold feet early on, but he ultimately had a change of heart and stuck his toe back in the race. Being the incumbent, you’d think Feicht had a head and shoulders advantage over a newcomer. But opponent Seth Vensil proved to be no candidate to look down your nose at, and wound up being an electoral Achilles Heel.

In the end, the results proved to be a sight for sore eyes for Vensil, who legged out a victory in November. And those are all the body part euphemisms I can come up with … at least, off the top of my head.

Got a question about Ohio politics/government? Send them by email to tbuchanan@ohiocapitaljournal.com or tweet them to @tylerjoelb. 

Reading material:

Here are some important and interesting Ohio Capital Journal articles you may have missed:

Dontavius Jarrells is ready for the Ohio Statehouse – This feature story profiles Dontavius Jarrells, the representative-elect for the House 25th District. I wrote about Jarrells’ upbringing in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland his compelling journey to becoming a state lawmaker.

Ohio’s anti-vaxxers shift aim toward COVID-19 laws – Anti-vaccine activists have been involved in the COVID-19 debates at the Statehouse and in the courts, reporter Jake Zuckerman writes.

Ohio foodbanks call for more National Guard assistance – Marty Schladen reports that foodbanks have seen “unprecedented demand” amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Ohio Supreme Court schedules arguments in armed teachers case – Should Ohio school districts be able to institute a policy arming school personnel? The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments on this case in January, Susan Tebben reports.

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