By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

https://www.thecentersquare.com/

Ohio House Democrats plan to offer their own solutions to potential redistricting issues caused by late census data, and it centers around following the state constitution and providing more public access to the process.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced last month redistricting data will not be available until September, creating a constitutional issue for Ohio. The state must meet certain requirements by the end of September.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has sued the U.S. Census Bureau to release information sooner, and Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, floated a constitutional amendment change last month.

Huffman recently dropped the idea of an amendment to push back redistricting deadlines, but Democrats offered their own ideas Monday.

Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, said she will introduce legislation that would strengthen the process’ transparency requirements and help the state meet constitutional deadlines enacted in 2015 and 2018.

“Transparency and keeping the public informed is important. That’s why Democrats are rolling out legislation to require greater transparency and public access in the redistricting process,” Hicks-Hudson said. “This plan lives up to the spirit of what Ohioans voted for, expanding meetings and notice requirements, making more records public and facilitating the public’s submission of maps and proposals and testimony both in person and virtually.”

Hicks-Hudson's bill would require submission of districts plans to the public through a service and website hosted by the Legislative Service Commission and create the constitutionally required joint committee to hold hearings on new districts.

It also would require public hearings before and after the introduction of district plans, as well as weekly public hearings by the General Assembly and the Redistricting Commission to brief the public.

The governor would be required to convene the commission by June 1, and the commission must adopt rules within 14 days.

Ohio voters created the Ohio Redistricting Commission in 2018 for districting for the General Assembly. The commission consists of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.