Ohio Republicans sue own party chairman, claim millions in missing funds

Members of the Ohio Republican Party are suing the leader of their party and accusing him of being responsible for $3 million in “missing funds.”

The lawsuit was filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against ORP Chairman Robert Paduchik and party treasurer Dave Johnson. Five individuals identified as donors and members of the ORP are listed as the parties leading the lawsuit: Denise Verdi, Mark Bainbridge, Laura Rosenberger, JoAnn Campbell and Joe Miller.

They were all also part of different ORP committees on topics such as fiscal review, audits, permanent rules and revisions, endorsement policy and county chairs.

Plaintiffs said they became aware of “potential financial improprieties, potential inaccurate financial reporting, the lack of an official audit … over more than a decade and unauthorized support of unendorsed candidates,” according to court documents.

“The millions of Republicans across our state deserve accountability and we are demanding it on their behalf,” said Rosenberger in a statement. “The Ohio Republican Party needs to be saved from within.”

The case centers around “significant funds” that the ORP members say went mission without “adequate explanation,” including $1.7 million in 2017, $437,000 in 2019, $271,000 in 2021 and $638,000 that the group claims was in an account established in 2017 and 2018 but was “written off” in 2021.

When the individuals voiced their concerns in October 2021, they say Paduchik removed them from their committee positions, in violation of ORP bylaws.

“Per the bylaws, Paduchik should not have reorganized the membership in (State Central Committee) or other committees until after the 2022 primary election and after the new (committee) members elected in that primary are installed,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses Johnson of breaching his duty as treasurer by “maintaining un-auditable books,” “failing to require annual audits and compliance with the bylaws,” and “failing to run the operations of the finance and treasury in compliance with the bylaws, in bad faith,” among other accusations related to signing off on financial statements and checks.

The OPR members say a commissioned compliance report in 2017 found that the ORP books have not been audited for “at least 12 years,” and requests made by the plaintiffs in the case to examine the books were denied by Johnson.

Citing Ohio Revised Code, the lawsuit said Paduchik had a “duty to perform the duties of a director ‘in good faith, in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in or not opposed to the best interests of the corporation, and with the care that an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.'”

In a letter to fellow Republicans obtained by Cleveland.com, Paduchik called the accusations “crazy,” singling out Bainbridge, who he said was attempting to “damage” the state central committee.


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Ohio House passes GOP bill to arm teachers -- despite opposition from police and teachers

Some teachers-turned-legislators urged their colleagues to vote against a bill to authorize school boards to allow teachers and other school personnel to come armed to school.

House Bill 99 would create a minimum amount of training, 20 hours initially and four hours on a recurring basis, for educators to bring guns to school. The bill passed out of the House on a 58-33 vote, with the only GOP “no" vote coming from former elementary school teacher and state Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville.

Bill sponsor Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said the bill is especially necessary for rural areas where first responders aren't as populous and can take longer to get to schools in the event of an emergency.

“Some of the inner city schools have police officers at their school, some of these rural schools don't have that luxury," Hall said.

State Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, took issue with the idea that the bill would be universally welcomed in schools, particularly in predominantly Black schools, as well as those that have to pass through metal detectors just to get into schools.

“Ask our Black boys … how safe will they feel knowing that they have armed teachers," Howse said. “When you look statistically, our children, Black babies, are overcriminalized."

The bill was opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police and several Ohio teachers unions, including Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

House Speaker Bob Cupp said the bill represented an important option for school districts looking to protect kids.

“I'm comfortable my school district would set adequate training and they wouldn't authorize anybody that wasn't capable of doing it safely," he said.

One of the former teachers who spoke against the bill, state Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, said her work educating the future teachers of the state does not lead her to discuss “how to become a security officer" as they do their work.

“I would never want a teacher to be in that circumstance and to fire a gun and hit a student, or worse, kill one," Lightbody said. “I have deep respect for the work the police officers and school resource officers do, and I would not want to ask any teacher to assume that same responsibility."

From a law enforcement standpoint, former Montgomery County Sheriff, now state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, said arming teachers can only shorten the “lengthy" process it takes to get first responders to schools in an active shooter situation.

“We've got to arm these teachers to give those kids a fighting chance," Plummer said. “We're training teachers, we're securing weapons, we're giving them best (identification) that they're friendlies, they're not the person creating the school shooting."

Plummer said the culture of “kids killing kids" has to change, but the bill would be a protection mechanism until that happens.

“Our best chance is training these teachers, keeping guns in schools, and trying to isolate the problem until the first responders can get there," Plummer said.

The bill has been through various revisions over 10 months, which led to a change that allowed school district board of education to approve more training beyond the minimum requirements if they choose, at their own cost.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.


Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

Ohio GOP blasted after release of last-minute congressional maps preserving their huge advantage

In committee hearings Wednesday, Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate unveiled their plans for new congressional districts.

In both cases Democrats complained the maps were shared at the eleventh hour, leaving members unable to properly analyze the proposals before them. Procedural votes along partisan lines and unanswered questions about the drafters' intent seem to presage a bitter fight more likely to produce a lengthy court battle than a 10 year congressional map.

Consequences

Ohio Republicans have had a 12-4 advantage in congressional districts since the maps were last drawn in 2011, with no congressional seats flipping parties in any election since that time. Ohio lost one district in the 2020 U.S. Census, going from 16 down to 15.

Both the House and Senate GOP maps would incorporate large swaths of Republican territory into Toledo Democratic U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur's district effectively rendering it a Republican district. Kaptur said in a statement that fair districts are a foundational requirement of the American Republic, assuring that the voices of all people are able to influence government.

“Lawmakers should not be able to insulate themselves from the views of their constituents through a rigged system of gerrymandering," she said. “The proposals unveiled today are a clear violation of this most basic principle."

The House map splits Hamilton, Franklin, Cuyahoga and Summit counties all into three districts. In Summit, one stretches up to Lake Erie communities such as Ashtabula, and another stretches down to the Hocking Hills area of Southeastern Ohio. In Franklin County, the city of Westerville is moved into the district currently occupied by Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, and in Hamilton County, Democratic Cincinnati is slimly connected to the entirety of Republican Warren County.

The Senate map also splits Hamilton, Franklin and Cuyahoga counties into three districts, with Democrats holding the advantage in the city centers and Republicans having the advantage in the respective other two districts including parts of each county. This map also moves a significant portion of Franklin County into Jim Jordan's district. The Senate GOP map also includes most of Montgomery County, home of Dayton, and Republican Warren County in the same district.

The House proposal

The guiding principle behind the House map appeared to be plausible deniability. North Canton Republican Scott Oelslager delivered pre-drafted remarks describing how his map complied with new constitutional demands, but he balked at almost every question about his proposal.

He affably ducked questions from Democratic members as too “technical", and acknowledged House staffer Blake Springhetti handled the actual drafting of the map. Speaking after the hearing, he admitted even his remarks weren't all his own — Springhetti helped come up with those, too.

Pressed by Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, about whether he'd object to Springhetti testifying about the proposal, Oelslager dodged.

“That's a decision that will be made by leadership above me and counsel," he said.

Asked more generally by Rep. Richard Brown, D-Canal Winchester, whether his party is even seeking a ten year map, which would require the support of at least a third of Democrats, Oelslager again deflected.

“That's actually a decision that I'm not involved with; I have not had any discussions with anybody, and I believe that will be a decision made above my pay grade in this process," Oelslager said.

Every member of the House leadership team, save the speaker, serves on the Government Oversight committee where Oelslager presented his proposal.

Democrats raised objections early, noting the 300 page substitute amendment and Oelslager's testimony were posted less than 20 minutes before the committee began. Once the documents were shared, the maps were presented in a format that made rapid analysis difficult.

But Democrats did voice concerns about the most obvious potential problems such as the four counties — Hamilton, Franklin, Cuyahoga and Summit — being split among three different districts. Another district runs from Ohio's southernmost county along the eastern border all the way past Youngstown in the northeast corner of the state.

Despite sidestepping questions on how borders were determined, Oelslager did share a rundown of partisan performance. He described the breakdown as 8-5-2, where Republicans would have eight safe seats, Democrats would have two and five would be a “toss-up." That toss up range is broad, though, with the majority party having as much as 55% of the likely vote share and the minority having at least 45%.

But outside observers dispute Oelslager's analysis. The partisan lean metrics in Dave's Redistricting App suggest the House Proposal would give Republicans a strong advantage in 9 districts, not 8. Four of the remaining districts would be considered competitive based on a 45-55% split, and two would be safe Democratic seats.

Shortly after the committee, Ohio League of Women Voters executive director Jen Miller criticized a lack of transparency in the process. Without maps available ahead of time, she said, it's impossible to know how good or bad the lines might be.

“We want to think about voters in all 88 counties and how they're represented and what they need. We can't do that yet. It's going to take us quite some time," Miller explained. “But we certainly are concerned that we could not get the map in a timely fashion, and we are concerned that we are once again maybe running out the clock. Estimates do look as though it is not partisan balanced, which is one of the things I think voters really wanted."

The Senate proposals

The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee heard about one map that's been out since the end of September, and another that made its debut during the committee meeting.

Premiering today was the Senate GOP's congressional map, presented by state Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon.

“We wanted to be sure that we put out a map that we were comfortable standing behind and that we felt gave us an opportunity with the minority party to meet and discuss that," McColley said after presenting his map.

McColley said he was the lead on the map “concepts," but Ray DiRossi, senate budget director and legislative map-drawer, was the one to insert the concepts into mapping software.

In the Senate Republican map, McColley said 14 counties are split, with the three biggest counties — Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton — split twice.

The Senate GOP map proposal has six Republican-leaning districts, 2 Democrat-leaning and seven that would be competitive, which McColley also defined as being within the 45-55% range.

Statewide election data and constitutionally required data was used in the maps, however McColley said racial data was skipped in the GOP map, something Republicans were criticized for in the legislative map-drawing process.

DiRossi told the Ohio Redistricting Commission during his presentation of those maps that racial and demographic data was skipped deliberately at the direction of “legislative leaders."

Criticism of the maps was limited, mostly because of the abrupt timeline in receiving the GOP map, but an overarching look at the maps gave University of Cincinnati politics professor David Niven a look into political strategy, he said.

“It is an astonishing work of defiance of the constitution, an astonishing defiance of voter will," said Professor David Niven, of the University of Cincinnati.

Niven said the splitting of counties is at times confusing, which he thinks is a political strategy as part of the maps.

“The effect of this is (voter) confusion and dampened representation," Niven said.

Collin Marozzi of the ACLU of Ohio said he was still reviewing the Senate effort, but from a brief look during the committee meeting, it didn't surprise him to see Republicans making the decisions they made, but he wanted to hear more about why.

“It's deliberate choices, they made their choices and I think the people of Ohio deserve to have an explanation as to why they made them, not just the fact that they did or didn't make them," Marozzi said.

State Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko and state Sen. Vernon Sykes presented the Senate Democratic Caucus map officially to the commission, with policy advisor Randall Routt jumping in with breakdowns directly from the map.

“As elected leaders, we owe it to our constituents to produce fair maps," Yuko said. “Let's work together, and let's get this mission accomplished."

The Democratic map came just before the Oct. 1 deadline for the legislature to approve congressional redistricting maps the first time, which blew by without any significant action from either General Assembly body.

The deadline passed, and the process moved to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, on which Sykes sat as co-chair, and their Oct. 31 deadline came and went without any map approval.

In Wednesday's committee meeting, Routt said the map was “merely a starting proposal" but a proposal they felt complied with not only the Ohio constitution, but the salvaging of communities across Ohio.

In explaining the map, Routt said only 11 counties were split, with the splits only occurring once in each county. No counties were split more than once.

“We attempt to keep communities together in our map, and we think that's an overriding state objective," Routt told the committee.

Committee member state Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Canal Winchester, took time to ask if Democratic bill sponsors felt the redistricting process had met expectations. Yuko and Sykes both said no, and Sykes said with no GOP map to consider until Wednesday, it's been difficult to negotiate a ten-year plan with bipartisan agreement.

“We're at this third stage of this process and fortunately it looks like today … we're starting out hopefully with a plan, and maybe we'll be better able to negotiate a bipartisan deal," Sykes said.

McColley said concerns about transparency are not necessarily well-placed, and likened the process to creating a piece of legislation, in that some preparatory conversations “don't happen in the public."

“Usually there's a public proposal … and then we'll have a proposal and a process going forward to work off of, and that'll inform much of the public dialogue that occurs with this map," McColley said.

All three maps are the subject of scheduled public hearings Thursday morning in Senate Local Government and Elections and House Government Oversight.

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Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

Ohio GOP ducks questions, objects to document requests in redistricting lawsuits

In court documents related to all three legislative redistricting lawsuits against the state, GOP members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission had very little to say on the matter.

The parties challenging the General Assembly redistricting maps approved in September, including the League of Women Voters, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and a group of Ohio residents, were asking for documents and statements related to the decision making and process of approving the maps.

Commission co-chair and House Speaker Bob Cupp, Senate President Matt Huffman, Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor Keith Faber and Secretary of State Frank LaRose kept mum, citing privileges such as attorney-client, legislative and even gubernatorial for a majority of requests made by the challenging groups.

The organizations and Ohioans were seeking information in the ongoing court cases related to compensation for services in creating the maps, anyone who communicated with members of the commission about proposed maps (both Republican and Democratic), measures through which the map criteria were determined, any meetings between commission members and the timeline for the drafting of a statement released after the maps were approved explaining how the commission determined statewide voter preferences in drawing the maps.

Both Cupp and Huffman objected to nearly all statements and documents requested, including those that asked for explanations on how the commission determined if the plan complied with the Ohio Constitution or whether it favored or disfavored a political party.

In documents submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court, Cupp said he and unspecified others “negotiated with all the members of the commission, including the Democratic members, in order to reach a compromise 10-year plan, but those negotiations did not produce a compromise 10-year plan because the Democratic members would not modify their proposals to move toward the plan introduced by the Commission even thought the enacted plan moved towards the plans proposed by the Democratic members of the commission."

Currently, Republicans hold a 64-35 supermajority in the Ohio House, and a 25-8 supermajority in the Ohio Senate. Republicans said the maps for the House and Senate approved last month reduced the GOP stronghold with a House breakdown of 62 seats to 37 Dems, and 23 to 10 in the Senate. Dave's Redistricting App projects a 65-seat GOP supermajority in the House. In an average of the last 16 statewide elections not including non-partisan judicial races, Republicans have won a 54% to 46% advantage. Democrats' proposed maps would've given them 42 House seats to 58 GOP seats and 13 Senate seats to 20 GOP seats.

Huffman echoed Cupp's statement about attempted compromise with the Democrats, and said he communicated about the plans with members of his staff, members of the commission, GOP caucus budget director Ray DiRossi and Democratic caucus mapmaking consultant Chris Glassburn, House Republican staffer Blake Springhetti, DeWine, LaRose, Faber, Cupp, state senator and commission co-chair Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader (and commission member) Emilia Sykes.

The Senate president also maintains his past defense that the maps he supported and which were approved by the commission “complied with all the mandatory requirements of the Ohio Constitution."

Democrats have said in court documents and publicly that they did not feel included in the redistricting process by the majority-Republican commission, and that the approved legislative map is not sufficient.

Fellow commission members DeWine, Faber and LaRose denied involvement in drawing commission maps or drafting the statement of statewide voter preferences, and balked at insinuations that they knew maps were approved after the deadline.

The League of Women Voters asked DeWine to admit that the Ohio Redistricting Commission voted to adopt the legislative maps after midnight, making the approval effective Sept. 16, not on the constitutional deadline of Sept. 15.

“On the evening of Sept. 15, 2021, the Governor was focused on doing his job as a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, not simply watching the clock," DeWine's response stated. “Thus, he did not keep track of the precise time Senate President Huffman's proposed amendment was introduced and what time the proposal was put to a vote."

A nearly-identical response turned up in Faber's and LaRose's answer to questions about the deadline passage.

When asked who he communicated with regarding the proposed maps, the governor said he “cannot possibly identify every individual that he has communicated with about the 9/9 or 9/16 plan."

“The Governor communicated with all members of the commission, the First Lady, the Lt. Governor, members of the Governor's staff including but not limited to members of his legal staff," attorneys for DeWine wrote.

The governor said he also communicated “via testimony and one personal meeting each at the request of their employers" with DiRossi and Glassburn, both of whom presented the proposed maps from their side of the political aisle.

LaRose also said it was burdensome to ask him to specify everyone he'd interacted with regarding redistricting, but did say he'd “attended several impromptu meetings with the knowledge of at least one Commission member in the first two weeks of September to discuss state legislative redistricting including attempting to obtain the votes needed for ten year general assembly district maps."

Asked who were involved in drafting or creating the proposed maps, GOP commission members objected as well, with DeWine and others emphasizing they'd had no hand in the drafting process.

“The Governor believes, based upon representation of others including public testimony, that Ray DiRossi was the primary map drawer of the proposed plan including amendments submitted by legislative Republicans, and Chris Glassburn was the primary map drawer of the plan submitted by legislative Democrats," DeWine's attorneys wrote.

DeWine, Huffman, Cupp, LaRose and Faber also had to provide depositions for the court cases, which occurred last week. Democratic commission members state Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes were also subject to deposition, along with caucus map-makers DiRossi and Glassburn.

Oral arguments in front of the Ohio Supreme Court are scheduled for December.


Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

Ohio Supreme Court: Presence of drugs in body doesn’t equal possession

The state's highest court found that a woman can't be charged with possession of drugs in Seneca County just because she and her newborn had drugs in their systems.

The Ohio Supreme Court took up the case after Kelly Foreman appealed her conviction on felony drug possession charges, which he was charged with after giving birth in March 2018.

According to court documents, the baby “exhibited symptoms of neonatal-abstinence syndrome" and urine and umbilical cord tissue tests showed the presence of cocaine.

While Foreman admitted to using drugs while pregnant, she said she hadn't used any drugs in her Seneca County home, and court records showed she was not “in actual or constructive control of any drugs in Seneca County."

A Third District Court of Appeals said because the drug tests had happened in the county, they determined the venue for the criminal charges.

The ACLU previously argued the case would have far-reaching implications for drug cases in the state, making it possible to be charged with possession for “simply being in Ohio."

In the state supreme court opinion, the justices acknowledged that “possession" in terms of holding a drug in the bloodstream or urine has not been addressed by the court before. But they said other courts have seen similar cases, and held that the presence of a controlled substance in someone's blood or urine “does not establish that the person possessed the controlled substance."

“The reason underlying those conclusions is that when a controlled substance is assimilated into a person's body, the person loses the ability to control or possess the substance," Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote in the ruling.

Because Foreman no longer had control of the substance, the high court found that tests proving the presence of cocaine were “insufficient to prove that she possessed cocaine in Seneca County."

O'Connor also said the court found the prosecution's side of the case “rather troubling" for the same reasons the ACLU took issue with the conviction in the case.

The court opinion said the argument that possession could be established through urine or umbilical cord testing leads to the possibility that a person could be charged with possession anywhere they test positive in the state, no matter where the drugs were when they were taken.

“For instance," O'Connor wrote. “Consider a person who ingests cocaine in Ashtabula County and then drives sober to Hamilton County a few days later. By the state's reasoning, that person could be charged with possession of cocaine in each and every county through which that person traveled, based on the sole fact that some assimilated form of cocaine remained in his system."

The justices were unanimous in reversing the appeals court decision and vacating Foreman's conviction in the case.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

Abortion ‘trigger bill’ coming to Ohio senate committee

A piece of legislation meant to go into effect if federal abortion rights protections are overturned will start its path through the Ohio legislature this week.

Senate Bill 123 is set to appear in the Ohio Senate Health Committee on Wednesday morning.

If passed, the bill would then await court challenges of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, the ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. If challenges to Roe were successful, Ohio could then quickly ban abortion.

There is an exception in the bill for abortions when there is serious risk to the pregnant person's life, but written certification of the necessity is required, and “appropriate neonatal services for premature infants must exist at the facility where the physician performs or induces the abortion."

Currently, abortion is legal in the state of Ohio up to 22 weeks gestation.

The proposed legislation would also ban “as the crime of promoting abortion" possessing, selling or advertising “drugs, medicine, instrument or device to cause an abortion"

“Promoting abortion" is one of a few crimes defined under the bill, and would be a first-degree misdemeanor if passed. “Abortion manslaughter" would be a crime under the bill, treated as a first-degree felony punishable with a minimum of four to seven years in prison for “purposely taking the life of a child born by attempted abortion who is alive when removed from the…uterus."

As with other attempted legislation on abortion in the state, the punishment primarily lands on the physicians, leaving those having the abortions legally cleared and even able to file a wrongful death lawsuit if an abortion is performed in violation of the proposed legislation.

A physician could have their license revoked if found guilty of “abortion manslaughter," “criminal abortion," or “promoting abortion."

The language regarding “abortion manslaughter" is reminiscent of language in a different abortion-related bill seeking to punish doctors after “botched abortions." That bill seeks to prohibit inaction by doctors in the case of “failed" abortions, however, state data shows failed abortions are very rare.

Of abortions reported at 19 weeks or more gestation in the state's most recent data — which was available at the time the botched abortion bill was presented — only one pregnancy was found to be viable.

The Senate legislation isn't the first “trigger ban" that has been introduced in the General Assembly in the recent past. Last spring, a House bill was introduced by former state Rep. John Becker, also aiming to take effect if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Abortion-rights advocates are planning to rally together at the Ohio Statehouse at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the day before the committee meets to consider the trigger ban.

“With the stark reality that Ohio could be the next state where abortion is entirely inaccessible, now is the time to show up and fight for our communities," said Aileen Day, communications for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, in a statement.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

'It is plain wrong': Republican majority gerrymanders Ohio for another four years

With some using words like “disappointment" and “unease," Republican majority members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission passed maps of General Assembly districts on Thursday heavily favoring GOP supermajorities that will last four years, if they make it through the courts.

In a process that bypassed the midnight deadline by minutes, the commission split along party lines 5-2 and passed GOP-produced maps that they said were presented to the commission the night before.

Currently, Republicans hold a 64-35 supermajority in the Ohio House, and a 25-8 supermajority in the Ohio Senate. The new maps continue the supermajorities, which require 60+ seats and 22+ seats respectively.

Republicans said the maps for the House and Senate approved early Thursday morning reduced the GOP stronghold with a House breakdown of 62 seats to 37 Dems, and 23 to 10 in the Senate. Democrats and Dave's Redistricting App project a 65-seat GOP supermajority in the House.

Anti-gerrymandering advocates have repeatedly called for representation that actually reflects the make-up of voters. And Ohio voters amended the state constitution in 2015 to implement reform intended to produce bipartisan and fair districts, with 71.47% of voters supporting.

In an average of the last 16 statewide elections not including non-partisan judicial races, Republicans have won a 54% to 46% advantage.

As of 2020, 1.9 million Ohioans were registered Republican while 1.6 million were registered Democratic, for a ratio also of 54% to 46%. More than 4.5 million voters remain unaffiliated.

Nevertheless, the Republican majority said in a statement that because they've won 13 of 16 statewide elections they could be entitled to up to 81% of representation of the people, despite them only winning the average of 54% of the votes in those elections.

The GOP committee majority includes Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor Keith Faber, Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp and Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman. Voting against the maps were Democratic House Leader Emilia Sykes and Democratic state Sen. Vernon Sykes.

The only bipartisan agreement was a condemnation of how the process had gone, and the fact that there seemed to be no way to reach a 10-year map.

“Tonight, it has become clear to me that there will not be a compromise," said DeWine. “It's clear in talking to both sides that there's not going to be an agreement, and that we could go tomorrow or the next day or the next day, and it simply was not going to occur."

The Democratic legislators on the commission both objected to the maps as presented, with commission co-chair Sen. Vernon Sykes saying the map proposal “falls far below what's considered to be fair."

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes said the maps were affront to women who earned the right to vote, and minorities who are protected by the Voting Rights Act.

“To have before today a map that summarily and arrogantly eliminates the ability for women like me…to engage in a process and have their votes heard is not only offensive, it is plain wrong," Sykes said.

The criticism of the process was broad, with Auditor Faber and Secretary of State LaRose both urging the commission to learn from its mistakes before congressional redistricting begins next month.

“I'm casting my yes vote with great unease," LaRose said. “I fear we'll be back in this room very soon."

The expectation of lawsuits was brought up quickly and early, with DeWine and others acknowledging that the courts would ultimately decide whether the maps fit the bill, or the process was constitutional.

“I'm not judging the bill one way or another, that's up for a court to do," DeWine said.

The condemnation from redistricting advocacy groups was swift, though the analysis of the maps is still ongoing.

“The Commission didn't reconvene until forty-five minutes before the midnight deadline and then enacted a map along party lines that disregards the letter and spirit of the reforms passed in 2015," wrote Common Cause Ohio executive director Catherine Turcer in a statement sent out by the Fair Districts Ohio coalition. “We are disappointed in both the process and the result."

Past court challenges, the discussion now turns to congressional districts representing the state, a process that should start in the next few weeks.


Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.