Redistricting in Ohio: What has Happened and What is Next?

Kate Warren is currently on leave from The Center for Community Solutions.

In late April, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau delivered the results of the apportionment count from the 2020 Census: For the sixth decade in a row, Ohio will lose a congressional seat, taking our congressional delegation from 16 to 15 before next year’s congressional elections.[1] Meanwhile, the bureau is still working expeditiously to deliver the detailed redistricting data as quickly as possible. While we were anticipating the data being delivered by the end of September, 2021, it is possible states could receive data as soon as August 16, 2021.[2]

For the sixth decade in a row, Ohio will lose a congressional seat, taking our congressional delegation from 16 to 15 before next year’s congressional elections.

What does all of this mean for redistricting in Ohio?

Back in March, I wrote about a possible delayed redistricting timeline, given the census data delivery delays. Since then, there have been political disagreements about how best to move forward. Senate President Matt Huffman had proposed a last-minute constitutional amendment to go before voters[3] to change the deadline for redistricting, but that ultimately did not move forward. Given the extenuating circumstances, it is likely that a judge would grant Ohio leniency on the new district map deadlines, making the constitutional amendment unnecessary.

Now, advocates are urging Governor Mike DeWine to convene the Ohio Redistricting Commission, so they can begin to meet prior to receiving the updated Census data.[4] There is work that can be done now so that legislators are ready to spring into action once the data are delivered. Taking the time to lay the groundwork for a transparent and fair redistricting process is an important step for Ohio to honor the redistricting reform that was approved by voters in 2018.[5]

Additionally, House Bill 313 was introduced by House Democrats in May, 2021. This bill would establish processes for members of the public to propose maps to the Redistricting Commission, and would help ensure a transparent redistricting process.

Delayed redistricting also impacts next year’s election.

Delayed redistricting also impacts next year’s election, and the Ohio League of Women Voters has led the charge to recommend that Ohio move its 2022 primary elections from May 3 to sometime in June. However, lawmakers would need to make that adjustment, and there has not yet been any action toward moving the primaries.

To learn more about Ohio’s redistricting process, watch the video from the recent City Club Forum, “No More Snake on the Lake.”

My message remains the same as it has been since 2019 when I started writing about the importance of the 2020 Census: Ohio only gets one chance to create its new districts, and we will live with them for the next decade. That’s why we should ensure they are based on accurate data, and drawn using a fair and transparent process.