Ohio politicians come to agreement over new congressional map

Congressional redistricting map submitted by Republicans in September / Courtesy: The Toledo Blade

Ohio's lawmakers stayed late into the night on Wednesday to approve a new congressional map, reuniting the state's primaries and ending months of political wrangling over which party will control Ohio's congressional delegation.

The agreement reached by lawmakers would repeal the current congressional lines, reunite the state's primaries to a single March date and establish a task force to make recommendations for changes to the mapmaking process.

Among the key revisions, according to the AP, the new map would unify seven counties that were previously split, reduce splits in two counties from three to two and split one county that was previously whole.

It also increases the black voting-age populations of urban districts in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

According to The Blade, "Under the redistricting compromise, portions of Toledo and eastern Lucas County that went to the largely rural 4th District now held by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) under a law passed in September will instead be restored to the 9th District held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). Six western city wards will remain part of the otherwise rural and suburban 5th District held by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green)."

The Senate signed off on the bill with a 27-6 vote just an hour and a half after the House passed it 77-17.

It made it out of the Republican-controlled legislature and on to Gov. John Kasich's desk with just enough Democratic support to avoid a repeal effort like the one facing the GOP-drawn map passed in September.

"The map that is presented here may not be an accurate reflection of the political sentiments and will of the people of the state of Ohio," said Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro, one of the few Democrats to vote for the measure. "But at least we have one primary. At least we're saving money. And at least we're putting this confusion behind us now."

The primaries were separated in October to give lawmakers more time to compromise on new congressional district boundaries after a Republican-drawn map was challenged by Democrats, who have been gathering signatures in an effort to ask voters to repeal it on next year's ballot.

Currently, Ohio's state, local and U.S. Senate primaries are planned for March, but the presidential and U.S. House primaries are scheduled to take place in June.

Those candidates expecting the June primary have until Dec. 30 to file for office.

A second primary election day would have cost taxpayers an additional $15 million.

Part of the bill, passed Wednesday, will create an eight-member bipartisan commission with two Democrats and two Republicans from each chamber tasked with looking at changing the way the congressional map is drawn.

The task force would hold at least three public hearings, one of which would take place after any proposal to change the process is drafted.