COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A fresh set of eyes is joining the Ohio Redistricting Commission — three days before the commission must submit a new set of state legislative maps to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) announced Tuesday that he is resigning as one of the five Republicans on the seven-member redistricting commission, selecting state Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) as his replacement.
“I believe Senator McColley offers a fresh approach and a new opportunity to produce a result that clearly the majority of the court was not willing to consider with the speaker and myself serving as members,” Huffman said in a news release.
McColley, co-chair of an Ohio task force that aids the Ohio Redistricting Commission, will join the commission amid a months-long battle where four sets of state legislative maps have been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
The seven commissioners have been threatened with contempt of court for failing to adhere to previous court-ordered deadlines.
“I’m looking forward to working with my fellow commissioners as we focus on the May 6th deadline set by the Ohio Supreme Court,” McColley said in the release. “Each set of maps have addressed the guidance of the majority, we will continue to try to meet that guidance.”
After the commission approved “modified” versions of maps in late March that had already been rejected by the court, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor ordered the commission to reconvene and submit a new set of maps by 9 a.m. Friday.
The absence of a court-approved state legislative map caused Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to draft plans to hold a second primary election on Aug. 2, where contests for the Ohio General Assembly will be on the ballot.
A three-judge federal panel also intervened in the process, ordering the commission to pass acceptable statehouse maps by May 28 or implement its third set of maps that were already declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
That set of maps, initially approved on Feb. 24, would give Republicans a 54-45 district advantage in the House and 18-15 district advantage in the Senate. Opponents of that set of maps argued the Republican districts would not be competitive in elections while 19 House and 7 Senate districts for the Democrats were.
The court said it decided on the third set of maps because LaRose had already ordered county boards of elections to begin election preparations using that set of maps before he told them to “press pause” after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected that set of maps.
The commission is scheduled to reconvene on Wednesday.