Republican lawmaker introduces bill to take cost of second primary from Ohio Supreme Court's budget

Jerome Fedor, left, votes using social distancing at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Tony Dejak / AP]
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Early voting is underway for the May 3 primary for statewide and congressional offices, and no date is set for a primary for state House and Senate races. But a Republican lawmaker is introducing a bill to cut funding for the Ohio Supreme Court by whatever it costs to hold a primary for those state legislative candidates.

Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission haven’t produced any maps for House and Senate districts that have been ruled constitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) said the commission worked for months on maps, but said the supreme court hasn’t moved the maps cases quickly, so the court, not counties boards of elections, should pay the estimated $20 million for the second primary.

“This is something we only do once every 10 years. So here we are in a once-every-ten-years situation, and the supreme court has not prioritized it the way that the redistricting commission has," Ferguson said.

Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and the court’s three Democrats have thrown out three sets of GOP-created maps as unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

The first set of legislative maps, drawn by Republican legislative staffers, were approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission on September 16. The first of three lawsuits challenging those maps was filed on September 23. The cases were consolidated and argued before the Ohio Supreme Court on December 8. The court struck down the first set of maps on January 12. A second set of GOP-created maps was approved on January 22, and struck down on February 7.

A third set of maps was supposed to have been approved by February 17, but the commission didn't do that, so Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor asked the members to file responses on why they shouldn't be held in contempt. When fellow Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy said O'Connor didn't have the authority to order a contempt hearing without the support of a majority of the court, the hearing was canceled, and a third set of maps was approved on February 22. That third set was tossed out on March 16.

The Redistricting Commission tried a new approach for the fourth set of maps, hiring outside mapmakers and setting them up in a room with a livestream for the public to watch. But in the end, they said the mapmakers weren't able to produce a recommended set of maps by the March 28 deadline, so Republicans on the commission tweaked the third set of maps and approved them. The court is now reviewing that fourth set.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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