Cards proposed by legislative Republicans would leave Democrats with two secure seats out of 15.
The Republican-proposed Senate map would combine Cincinnati with several GOP counties to the east, including Clermont County and Scioto County. Democrats could count on victories in Cleveland and a Columbus district. Other parts of Columbus would be included in two other districts; one extends to southern Ohio while another extends to Lima.
“The card you have in front of you is much more competitive than the one we have right now,” said Senator Rob McColley, R-Napoleon. He said the card would create five secure GOP seats, two secure Democratic seats and eight competitive ones.
The Senate GOP card shared only 14 counties.
House GOP proposal
A proposal by the Republicans from the Ohio House could give the GOP a 13-2 advantage among representatives of the U.S. House despite voter-approved changes to prevent gerrymandering.
The map, introduced Wednesday morning, would create two secure Democratic districts in Columbus and Cleveland; nine secure Republican districts and four Republican-leaning districts. The most competitive district would be Cincinnati’s 1st Congressional District, according to the popular redistricting analysis website, Dave’s Redistricting App.
According to the proposed House GOP map, Cincinnati’s 1st District, currently represented by GOP Representative Steve Chabot, will group the city of Cincinnati, which is reliably democratic, with the strongly Republican Warren County. The district leans Republican, 49.8% to 47.9%, according to Dave’s Redistricting App.
“People are frustrated now with how the district has been divided,” the rep said. Brigid Kelly, D-Hyde Park. She said the new proposal does not address these issues and wanted to know why 1st District was designed that way.
The House GOP card would also place GOP Representative Brad Wenstrup’s Columbia Tusculum in Chabot’s 1st Congress District.
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Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur of Toledo would be pulled out of a district that currently stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along Lake Erie. Instead, the city would be included with more GOP-friendly counties around it.
Columbus’ 3rd Congressional District and Cleveland’s 11th Congressional District would remain highly democratic, but the surrounding districts would give Republicans the advantage.
The House’s GOP card would also drag Democratic Representative Joyce Beatty’s condominium downtown into the 15th Congress district with Licking and Fairfield counties. The district will favor Republicans 53% to 45%.
Under the proposal, Akron would be divided into two districts, one extending into the counties of Portage, Ashtabula and Trumbull, while another extending into several Appalachian counties south of the city. Both districts would favor Republicans.
More:Ohio is using a new process to draw state, congressional districts. That is how it works
House Republican employee Blake Springhetti drew the card presented by Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, Wednesday morning. Democrats saw a copy of the card 18 minutes before the committee meeting began.
Oelslager said the map creates 8 GOP-safe districts, five competitive districts, which he defined as between 45% and 55% party-oriented, and two secure democratic districts. The map divides fewer subdivisions than Ohio’s current congressional map and keeps the districts’ populations almost identical.
Oelslager had few answers to Democratic lawmakers’ technical questions about the card, and whether Republicans wanted a 10-year card that would require Democratic support. The GOP majority could approve a four-year card without Democrats, but it could not favor one party over the other.
What happens next?
After exceeding two deadlines, Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature is once again holding the pen to draw congressional districts. Legislators have until November 30 to approve a card and need democratic buy-in for it to last for 10 years. If they can’t gather enough bipartisan support, Republicans can instead approve a four-year card.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said his goal, aspirationally, is to avoid last-minute work on a final card by the end of November. Hearings are scheduled for Thursday morning so the public can provide feedback on the cards.
Huffman said any map will be limited by state geography and where Ohioans live. And ultimately “we are a Republican state at this time.”
Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, said he hopes to use his experience as a union negotiator to reach an agreement that matches Ohio’s voting preferences. But he is also aware that Republicans could seek a few Democratic votes to approve a card that does not work for everyone.
“My expectations are that they will try to take us off,” Yuko said. “I was not born yesterday.”
This story will be updated.
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the United States TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
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