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New maps to give GOP more edge

David Skolnick

Ohio Democrats who hated the latest state legislative and congressional boundaries approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission and ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court will be even more upset with the next maps.

They need to be redrawn for the 2024 election. The new ones that will be adopted by the commission and upheld by the court will be even less kind to Democrats.

There are two reasons.

First, objections filed by various left-leaning groups to new maps contending gerrymandering in favor of Republicans almost certainly will be rejected with a new swing vote justice added early next year to the Ohio Supreme Court by Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican.

All five state legislative maps and the two congressional ones approved by the commission were rejected by 4-3 court votes. In each case, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, sided with the three Democratic associate justices while the three other Republicans on the court supported the maps.

O’Connor is leaving at the end of the year. She couldn’t run for re-election because of Ohio age restrictions on judges. She’s being replaced by Republican Sharon Kennedy, associate justice who won election last week.

It’s up to DeWine to appoint Kennedy’s successor. He certainly will pick a Republican candidate who will side with Kennedy and two other Republican justices — Patrick Fischer and the governor’s son, Pat DeWine.

DeWine’s appointee will allow practically any map approved by Republicans and challenged in the Supreme Court to get passed as the three other GOP justices previously did.

The only backstop for Democrats is that state constitutional amendments changing how the maps are drawn require buy-in from both political parties or else those district boundaries are good for four years instead of 10.

The second reason new maps will be worse for Democrats is a proportionality provision that requires districts to reflect the statewide partisan vote for the past decade.

Ohio is a Republican state that got even more red with the recent election.

Before this recent election, that vote breakdown was 54 percent Republican and 46 percent Democratic.

When the Ohio Redistricting Commission drew the state legislative maps, 26 of the state legislative districts favored Democrats by no more than 3 percent, and only four Republican districts favored that party by less than 10 percent. Those four other Republican districts favored the GOP by at least 5 percent.

Republicans won many of the districts that slightly favored Democrats, including state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, in the 58th House District. They also won in the 64th House District, which favored Democrats by nearly 10 percent, when Republican Nick Santucci of Howland was elected.

With this election, Republicans grew their majorities in both the state House and Senate.

Republicans didn’t even bother with the proportions in drawing U.S. House seats with 10 safe Republican, three safe Democratic and two tossups that slightly favored Democrats and were won by that party’s nominees. The congressional map is now 10-5 in favor of Republicans.

The 54-46 breakdown is going to change in favor of Republicans. It should get close to 60-40.

That’s because the state laws on drawing maps say the last decade of partisan statewide races.

It will eliminate the 2012 election that had two statewide elections, both won by Democrats. Democrat Sherrod Brown beat Republican Josh Mandel 50.7 percent to 44.7 percent in the U.S. Senate race and then-President Barack Obama won Ohio over Republican Mitt Romney 50.7 percent to 47.7 percent.

Those two races will be replaced by nine partisan statewide Republican victories earlier this month.

In the five executive branch races, Republicans got anywhere from 58.8 percent to 62.7 percent of the vote. The three Supreme Court races, which had party labels after candidates’ names for the first time, got about 56 to 57 percent of the vote.

The closest statewide race was for U.S. Senate with Republican J.D. Vance getting 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent for Democrat Tim Ryan.

Dan Tierney, DeWine’s spokesman, said: “We’ve got court case law now that gives high priority to the percentages and with the percentage higher for Republicans, that will hopefully bring more compromise.”

It’s doubtful Democrats will see it that way.

Skolnick covers politics for The Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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