DeWine signs bill establishing new congressional map

The latest congressional redistricting proposal, approved by the Ohio House on Thursday, was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine Saturday.
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The latest congressional redistricting proposal, approved by the Ohio House on Thursday, was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine Saturday.

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill Saturday establishing a new congressional map for the state.

“When compared to the other proposals offered from House and Senate caucuses, both Republican and Democrat, the map in SB 258 makes the most progress to produce a fair, compact, and competitive map. The SB 258 map has fewer county splits and city splits than these recent proposals and the current congressional map,” DeWine said following the signing. “The SB 258 map keeps Lucas and Stark counties, as well as the Mahoning Valley, whole within single congressional districts for the first time in decades, and also keeps the cities of Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo all whole within the same congressional map for the first time since the 1840s. With seven competitive congressional districts in the SB 258 map, this map significantly increases the number of competitive districts versus the current map.”

The Ohio House approved the new map of U.S. House districts on Thursday, sending it on to Gov. Mike DeWine just three days after it cleared the Ohio Senate.

Two local Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the bill: state Reps. Kyle Koehler of Springfield and Nino Vitale of Urbana.

Koehler said he voted against the map because it splits Springfield off from most of the rest of Clark County. Residents told him they strongly oppose that split, he said.

An arc of the county east, north and west of Springfield is in the new District 15, which includes Columbus suburbs and several other counties to the south.

The map’s new District 10 keeps together Montgomery and Greene counties and adds a chunk of Clark County, putting Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Springfield Air National Guard base in the same district.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, now represents the area that includes Wright-Patt and said previously he’s long been an advocate for the base, which is Ohio’s largest single-site employer with nearly 30,000 workers. His office declined to comment Thursday on the impact of having Wright-Patt and the Springfield base in the same district.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and several progressive and voting rights groups had called on DeWine to veto the map. Whaley, a Democrat running for governor, said DeWine pledged in 2018 to support a bipartisan redistricting process.

“The rules are pretty clear — the voters said that the redistricting process should be done in a bipartisan way and when I am governor, there will be an expectation that the new district maps honor the voters’ wishes,” she said in a news release.

Prior to the House vote, Democrats argued that the map is gerrymandered to increase Republican dominance by splitting urban and minority communities. Republicans asserted that the map is fair and meets all legal requirements.

State Rep. Willis E. Blackshear Jr., D-Dayton, voted against the new congressional districts and sent a letter to DeWine urging him to veto it.

“Ohioans in 2015 and 2018 overwhelmingly voted for a fair and transparent redistricting process. When you look at the current Congressional map, it isn’t a true representation of Ohio,” Blackshear said.

The office of House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, released a statement after Thursday’s vote.

“The congressional map approved today is fair, thoughtful and most importantly, constitutional. It ensures all Ohioans have a voice in Washington,” the news release said. It rejected accusations of gerrymandering and lack of public input.

Since the map passed by a simple majority vote without Democratic support, it must be redone or re-approved in four years. To last for a decade, a map would have to get a three-fifths overall majority and support from one-third of Democrats.

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