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Ohio redistricting process remains ‘fluid’ in joint committee

Senate Dems presented their map, with some changes they made to even out population numbers in congressional districts, but theirs was the only map introduced.
Credit: Ohio Capital Journal
State Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro, at left, and state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, at right, oversee the Joint Committee of Congressional Redistricting on Wednesday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The first meeting of Ohio’s joint committee on redistricting included quickly-compiled testimony on transparency and accountability, and little else on how the process will continue.

The Senate Democrats presented their map, with some changes they say they made to even out population numbers in the congressional districts, but theirs was the only map the committee saw on Wednesday. The original version was presented at the end of September.

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The comments from committee members, map presenters and public citizens were largely the same as those made in individual committees, House Government Oversight and Senate Local Government & Elections, led by the joint committee’s co-chairs, state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, and state Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro.

“I’m a voter and I care, and I think that should matter,” said Christos Ioannou, a political science student at Capital University who spoke up to let the joint committee know that young people were also paying attention to the process.

As for redistricting going forward within the General Assembly, Gavarone and Wilkin said the joint committee’s role is as information gatherers.

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“The key thing to remember is this is the first time going through this process, it is very fluid,” Wilkin said. “It is something that is not set in stone.”

“I think it’s important that we continue to have these hearings and give people an opportunity to come in and discuss their thoughts and concerns, and continue that input as much as possible,” Gavarone said after the joint committee adjourned for the day.

But the committee is only scheduled to have one more hearing, and the next steps are still being figured out by the House and Senate, the co-chairs stated. The committee chairs said as far as they’re aware right now, no other meetings have been scheduled and the process in their individual committees could also continue.

“Right now, everything is on the table, we’re looking at everything and certainly gathering public input,” Gavarone said.

Read more from the Ohio Capital Journal

The two have listened to hours of input in their individual committees, mostly those criticizing the GOP maps from the House and Senate. They said they still have the goal of a ten-year, bipartisan map, but even seeing the proposed maps they’ve seen, Wilkin said he “would be surprised if we have seen ‘the’ map.”

“Everybody’s view of fair is different,” Wilkin said of his takeaways from the testimony.

All the testimony made at the individual committees will be included in the documents the joint committee will consider, after a motion from committee member state Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon.

The next joint committee meeting will be Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the House Finance Hearing Room.