Update 8/30 4:45 p.m. – Governor Mike DeWine’s office announced Wednesday that the governor will reconvene the Ohio Redistricting Commission on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m., which was the same day the commission had previously scheduled to start work.
The meeting will be held in the Rhodes State Office Tower’s lobby hearing room.
According to the official notice, after DeWine reconvenes the commission, “the appointments of any appointed members of the commission will be entered into the record, the administration of the Oath of Office will occur, the roll will be called, the co-chairpersons will be formally entered into the record and the meeting will be turned over to the co-chairpersons.”
What seemed like the simple scheduling of an organizational meeting to get redistricting back up and running has run into a complication after a letter from the Ohio Attorney General.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission is scheduled to meet Sept. 13 to renew efforts to pass constitutional statehouse district maps, but Gov. Mike DeWine’s office is now saying they’re not sure if that date will work.
That’s because staff say they received a letter from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday, citing Ohio law that states the governor must “reconstitute” the commission before business can go forward.
DeWine spokesperson Dan Tierney told the OCJ that the AG stands as statutory counsel for the governor, so “we intend to follow his advice at this time.”
“We will announce a formal meeting date in the near future,” DeWine spokesperson Dan Tierney told the OCJ on Tuesday. “It is too early to determine if this will change the previously announced meeting or not.”
The commission needs to meet to redraw statehouse districts after the Ohio Supreme Court found the last five versions adopted by Republicans on the commission to be unconstitutional violations that favored the GOP over Democrats more than voting trends of the state showed.
With regard to the state’s congressional district map, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the redistricting case sent by GOP leadership, instead sending it back to the state supreme court for consideration based on a North Carolina redistricting case in which the nation’s highest court ruled the legislature did not have more authority over redistricting than the judicial branch merely because a federal Elections Clause gives state legislatures authority over the “time, place and manner” of elections.
Yost’s letter was addressed to DeWine, state Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor of State Keith Faber, Senate President Matt Huffman, House Speaker Jason Stephens, Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio and House Minority Leader Allison Russo.
Everyone on that list is a member of the commission, other than Stephens and Huffman, though Huffman was an original member of the commission two years ago when the current redistricting cycle began.
Yost argued that because the members of the commission can change from one map adoption to another, it’s necessary for the governor to “reconstitute” the commission.
This time around, four of the members are different from the original members two years ago, including the co-chairs, state Rep. Jeff LaRe, R-Violet Twp., and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood.
“Thus, the current governor is the commission member who must convene the commission’s ‘first meeting’ following any reconstitution of the commission,” Yost wrote.
Antonio said she and LaRe “followed past practice” in calling the commission meeting for Sept. 13, but she is open to the idea of a new start.
“If the governor and my fellow members of the commission decide that the way to proceed is to start from scratch and ‘reconstitute’ the commission, I look forward to the three statewide hearings as required by the Ohio Constitution to hear from Ohioans and then completing our work in an efficient and effective manner, because that is what the people of Ohio deserve,” Antonio said in a Tuesday statement.
Antonio’s fellow Democratic commission member, House Minority Leader Allison Russo, gave similar positive comments about the idea of conducting more public hearings.
“Ohio House Democrats eagerly embrace any opportunity to work collaboratively toward fair districts that reflect the people’s voice, our communities and the diversity of our great state,” Russo said in a statement.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.