Emily McCord speaks to Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles, who has been covering the latest over the congressional redistricting map. Democrats have started a referendum drive on this GOP passed map. Republicans are negotiating with Democrats to pass another map through an emergency clause, but so far, those talks haven't been successful. Ingles reports on the latest proposal.
Emily McCord: There’s been a lot of movement this week on redistricting. In September, Ohio Republicans approved new congressional districting map. Democrats weren’t happy with the map, saying it was gerrymandering, and started a petition drive to put a referendum on next year’s ballot. For one, that has implications on the primaries for Republicans
Jo Ingles: If we go into the March primary as we have in the past, the filing deadlines are on December 7th. So, that means the map has to be in place and these congressional candidates need to know what district they need to file in. They can’t file for a district that doesn’t exist. That’s why it’s important to have that map in place if we want to have that March primary. But now, the legislature has moved that primary back to June for at least the presidential and congressional races, the federal races, to give another 90 day window on the filing dates. As it stands right now, there will be a primary in March in Ohio, but that will be for every race that’s not federal. And the federal races, the congressional and presidential, will be in June.
EM: So, now the Republicans have been trying to pass another map this week. What’s different?
JI: This map-they have not passed it, let’s be clear. They’ve been talking to Democrats behind closed doors. They’ve been trying to make a map that they can get enough Democrats to back so that they can get an emergency clause. If they can get this emergency clause in the next couple of weeks, they can still get ahead of that federal filing deadline and they can move the primary back to March and all the primaries for all the offices will be in March and that’s ideally what they would like to do. So, they’ve created this map and they’ve had Democrats working on it, but they can’t get enough Democrats to support it. They need seven. While they’ve made some changes some of the Democrats like, they don’t like it enough that they want to vote for it. One of the changes down in your area, Montgomery County, is now whole on this new map. One congressional member would represent Montgomery County. Also, in Clark County, one congressional member would represent Clark County. It’s not split up as much> the communities stay together more on this newly proposed map. But remember, this newly proposed map has not passed. It does not have votes. What Democrats are pushing for, they say ‘this is still a 12-4 split’. They say that the Republicans still have way too much leeway on this map [and] that it’s skewed to their advantage and they want to make sure that it’s more competitive.
EM: There’s been mounting frustration surrounding this issue. Here’s Democratic representative Bob Hagan, speaking on the Ohio House floor this week.
“I’m left wondering what the hell we are doing down here. My district leads the nation in the poverty rate. 49....almost 50 percent...And we have introduced legislation that does nothing to put people to work...to bring people out of poverty....to give people health care....(audible noise)....Don’t interrupt me! This is about the constitution and my ability and right to speak (you can hear the speaker banging his gavel repeatedly)....So don’t you dare interrupt me!!”
JI: Oh yeah, this has definitely drawn some emotion. You gotta remember that this week the legislature was not supposed to be here and they were hastily called back in. Wednesday the speaker called a session for Thursday. The lawmakers came in. A lot news reports and a lot of the people who had been involved thought a deal had been reached. But going into it, there was never an indication that I get that there was a settlement. On Thursday morning, speaker Batchelder gathered reporters in his office and he indeed said there was not a settlement. So, what ended up happening was a technical vote on the floor that did not have a vote actually on this map. So, a lot of the people who are down here are really frustrated that they came in and really there has been no change. They’ve been negotiate, negotiate and negotiate and they want it done.
EM: So, what’s the next step going to be?
JI: Well, the next step is they’re still negotiating. We’ve got the Speaker and the Republican leaders negotiating with the Democrats and especially the Democratic Black Caucus leaders. Now the one thing to remember here, there are a couple of possibilities. If they were to pass this new map, what could happen is there could be a referendum on this new map as well. Another possibility is they get these maps tied up with so many strings that a court could step in. A court could decide the map. Everyone is saying they don’t want that. So, right now they’re still in negotiating mode and I think that’s where it’s going to continue for a while.