Stories about Ohio

Redistricting review – a summary of this week’s map-making news

During this year and next, state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions will draft and implement new congressional and state legislative district maps that will be used for the next 10 years. We’ll bring you regular updates here in the Brew about all of the many redistricting goings-on. The pace is expected to be fast-and-furious in the coming months.

Ohio: On May 12, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was scheduled to hear oral argument in Ohio v. Coggins, in which Ohio officials are seeking to force the U.S. Census Bureau to release redistricting data to the states ahead of its September 30 target date.

On Feb. 25, 2021, the state filed its lawsuit against the Census Bureau in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said, “The unavailability of decennial census data irreparably harms the State: the Ohio Constitution requires the State to use decennial census data during redistricting if the data is available, and allows the use of alternative data sources only as a second-best option. By blocking the State from conducting redistricting using decennial census data, the Census Bureau’s decision prevents the State from conducting redistricting in the constitutionally preferred manner.” The state asked that the court “issue an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from delaying the release of Ohio’s redistricting data beyond March 31, 2021, or else requiring the defendants to provide the State with Ohio’s population data at the earliest date this Court deems equitable.”

Judge Thomas Rose, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, dismissed the lawsuit on March 24, 2021, writing, “The Court will therefore reject Ohio’s request for an order that pretends that the Census Bureau could provide census-based redistricting data by March 31, 2021. The Court cannot ‘order a party to jump higher, run faster, or lift more than she is physically capable.'” The next day, the state appealed Rose’s decision to the Sixth Circuit.

A similar lawsuit is pending in Alabama.

Virginia: On April 26, 2021, state Delegate Lee Carter (D) sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Herring (D) and asked for a formal opinion as to the “constitutionality of the 2021 elections for the House of Delegates being conducted under electoral districts established in 2011.” Carter asked Herring to address the following issues:

1. “The Constitutional authority, if any such authority exists, under which the Virginia Department of Elections is currently conducting the 2021 House of Delegates elections for the electoral districts established in 2011.”

2. “Whether, in the absence of timely data from the United States Census Bureau, the Virginia Redistricting Commission is Constitutionally bound to establish new electoral districts with the best available population data for the House of Delegates elections in the year 2021 and in each tenth subsequent year thereafter.”

As of May 6, 2021, Herring had not responded to Carter’s request for an opinion.

Additional reading:

Cincinnati voters defeat Issue 3, Affordable Housing Trust Fund Charter Amendment

Cincinnati voters defeated Issue 3 on Tuesday with 73% of voters opposing the measure and 27% of voters approving the measure. Issue 3 was a citizen initiative that would have established the Cincinnati Affordable Housing Trust Fund and created a board of private citizens to manage the fund. It would have also provided guidelines for what projects could be financed by the fund. The measure would have required a $50 million annual city contribution to the fund, and it suggested revenue sources for the fund. The measure defined housing as affordable when “costs associated with residing in the home require no more than thirty percent of the household’s income” and contained income level thresholds of 60% and 30% of Hamilton County’s median household income.

Issue 3 was put on the ballot through a successful citizen initiative petition drive which submitted 9,541 signatures. Cincinnati Action for Housing NOW led the effort to put Issue 3 on the ballot. On Tuesday night, the campaign said, “We are a movement of people who know every person in this city needs access to a home they can afford. … Issue 3 put our need for affordable housing at the top of community conversation.”

Cincinnati voters approved two other charter amendments, Issues 1 and 2. Issue 1 was approved by a margin of 77% to 23%. It amended the city charter to prohibit council members from revising their successor designation certificates after being indicted for a felony or after the filing of certain criminal charges against them. It also requires the City Solicitor to appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute an action to remove a member of Council where a member of the council has been indicted for a felony or a criminal complaint has been filed against a member for charges relating to official conduct.

Issue 2 was approved by a margin of 77% to 23%. Issue 2 made the following changes to the charter:

• provides for a pre-conviction suspension of council members indicted for state or federal felonies related to the council member’s duties, where the council member shall be suspended from official duties but shall receive a salary during the suspension that may be recovered by the city upon the member’s conviction; 

• provides for the removal of council members upon conviction of or guilty plea to said crime; 

• requires ethics training for council members within 60 days of taking the oath of office; 

• prohibits council members from revising their successor designation certificates after being indicted for a state or federal felony related to the council member’s conduct in council duties; 

• clarifies details regarding successor designation certificates.

Additional reading:

Pureval, Mann advance to general election for Cincinnati mayor

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval and councilman and former mayor David Mann advanced from the May 4 primary for mayor of Cincinnati. The two will meet in the general election on Nov. 2. The other four candidates in the primary election were Gavi Begtrup, Herman Najoli, Raffel Prophett, and Cecil Thomas.

Pureval received 39.1% of the vote and Mann received 29.1%. Thomas received 16.4%, Begtrup received 9.6%, Prophett received 3.5%, and Najoli received 2.3%.

Although the elections for and position of the mayor are officially nonpartisan, the candidates running were affiliated with political parties. Both Pureval and Mann are Democrats. The last Republican to serve as mayor was Willis Gradison, who left office in 1971.

The mayor serves as the city’s chief executive and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, and appointing departmental directors. He or she presides over council meetings, proposes legislation for discussion, and holds the power to appoint or remove committee heads, but does not have the authority to vote. The mayor also represents the city on the state, national and international levels.

New apportionment data released – six states gain congressional seats, seven states lose seats

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released it post-2020 census apportionment counts. Six states—Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon—gained seats. Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) is a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) are divided governments.

What is apportionment, and how does it work? Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

After the first census (1790), the 105 members of U.S. House represented about 34,000 residents each. Now, the 435 members of the House will represent an average of 761,169 residents each.

The 2020 census: According to the 2020 census, the resident population of the United States, as of April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281, representing a 7.4 percent increase over the 2010 population. California remained the most populous state with 39,538,223 residents. The population of Texas, the only state to gain multiple congressional seats from apportionment, grew by nearly 4 million residents between 2010 and 2020, reaching 29,145,505. Utah was the fastest-growing state: its population increased by 18.4 percent between 2010 and 2020, reaching 3,271,616.

The census is a complex undertaking. First, the Census Bureau collects data. This involves making a list of every residence (including houses, apartments, dorms, etc.) in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories; asking members of each household in the country to complete the census survey; and following up with those households that did not submit surveys. The Census Bureau then must process the data. This involves making a final list of residential addresses, cross-checking for duplicate responses, and processing write-in responses. The Census Bureau also uses imputation, a statistical method applied “in rare instances” that enables the Census Bureau “to fill in missing information using what we already know about an address and its nearest, similar neighbor.” Typically, upon final processing of the data, the Census Bureau delivers state population and apportionment counts by December 31 in the year of the census. Detailed redistricting data follows by April 1 of the next year.

On November 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible.” On January 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment report would be delivered by April 30, 2021.

What comes next: The Census Bureau has not yet delivered redistricting data to the states. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by August 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by September 30.

Additional Reading:

Rep. Steve Stivers will resign from the House of Representatives on May 16

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) announced on April 19 that he would resign from the House of Representatives to become President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Stivers represents Ohio’s 15th Congressional District and said his resignation would be effective as of May 16.

In a tweet announcing his resignation, Stivers said, “For the past decade, it has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. Throughout my career, I’ve worked to promote policies that drive our economy forward, get folks to work, and put our fiscal house in order. I’m excited to announce that I will be taking on a new opportunity that allows me to continue to do that.”

Stivers has served in the U.S House since 2011. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Democrat Joel Newby, 63% to 37%, and is a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Before he was elected to the U.S. House, Stivers served in the Ohio State Senate from 2003 to 2009.

U.S. House vacancies are filled by special election. Five special elections have been called during the 117th Congress as of April 19, including a special to fill the seat representing Ohio’s 11th District, most recently held by Marcia Fudge (D). That seat became vacant after Fudge was confirmed as the secretary of housing and urban development in President Biden’s (D) administration on Mar. 10. The primary elections to fill Fudge’s congressional seat are scheduled for August 3, 2021, and the general election will be held on November 2, 2021. 

Gov. DeWine (R) will set the date of the special election to fill Stivers’ seat. The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of Stivers’ term, which expires on Jan. 3, 2023. 

After Stivers’ resignation takes effect, the partisan breakdown of the U.S. House will be 218 Democrats and 211 Republicans, with six vacancies. Ohio’s 15th District was rated Safe Republican during the 2020 general election. 

Additional Reading:

Ohio governor appoints new utility commission chairwoman

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) appointed former county judge Jenifer French as chairwoman of the state’s public utilities commission on March 19. French will fill a position that has been vacant since November, when former Chairman Sam Randazzo resigned. If confirmed by the state Senate, French’s term will run through April 10, 2024.

French was a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas from 2015 to 2021. She lost a re-election bid in the nonpartisan race on November 3, 2020, after running in the Republican primary unopposed. Although the general election for the court was nonpartisan, candidates ran in partisan primaries.

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission is a five-person state executive board that regulates electric and gas utilities, water and wastewater companies, telecommunication companies, and railroads.

Ohio is one of 37 states in which utility commission members are appointed by the governor. The position is elected in 11 other states and in two (South Carolina and Virginia) they are appointed by the legislature.

Additional reading:

Ohio village council recall election to be held Feb. 23

A special recall election seeking to remove four Woodmere Village Council members from their seats is scheduled for February 23, 2021. Woodmere is a town in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with a population of 884 people as of the 2010 census. The board members subject to recall are board president Jennifer Mitchell Earley and members Glenda Todd Miller, Lisa Brockwell, and Craig Wade.

The recall election ballot asks one question for each of the four members: “Shall [council member’s name] be allowed to continue as Member of Council?” If a majority of the votes are in the affirmative, the member will remain in office; if a majority of the votes are in the negative, the member will be recalled. The question of replacement for any recalled member is not on the ballot and will be addressed after the recall election, if necessary.

The recall effort began in October 2020. Recall petitioners, known collectively as the Woodmere Project, cited the council’s failure to install a sidewalk along the village’s main road and its inability to keep the village’s website up-to-date as grounds for the recall. Petitioners also accused the four council members of pitting residents against each other.

The recall opponents alleged that a lack of transparency about the contents of the recall petition misled the residents who signed it. Petitioners were required to obtain 45 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

The recall election was originally scheduled for January 19, 2021, but was canceled after the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections determined petitioners did not submit the required number of signatures. The effort was initially certified as having enough signatures due to confusion over whether petitioners were submitting initial or supplemental signatures. Petitioners then re-submitted signatures sufficient to get the recall on the ballot on February 23.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

Additional reading:

Portman becomes fourth senator to announce he won’t seek re-election in 2022

On Jan. 25, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced that he would not seek another six-year term in the Senate when his term expires in 2022.

In his statement announcing his decision, Portman said, “I am really looking forward to being home in Ohio full time, seeing family and friends more, and getting back to the private sector, including being able to be more involved in the community and in our family business. And I plan to stay involved in public policy issues.”

Portman was first elected to the Senate on Nov. 2, 2010. Prior to serving in the U.S. Senate, Portman served multiple roles in President George H.W. Bush’s (R) administration, represented Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1993 to 2005, and served as U.S. Trade Representative and later as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in Bush’s administration.

As of January 2021, three incumbent U.S. Senators have also announced they will not be running for re-election in 2022: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Between 2011 and July 2020, Ballotpedia tracked 243 retirement announcements from members of the U.S. House and Senate. January had seen the highest number of retirement announcements of any month at 45. Thirty-one of those took place during election years and 14 during odd-number years. During odd-number years, when no regular congressional elections were held, the highest number of retirements—24—had been announced in November.

Additional Reading:

Filing period to close Feb. 3 for municipal elections in two Ohio cities

The candidate filing deadline to run for elected office in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, is on February 3, 2021. Prospective candidates in Columbus may file for the following municipal and school district offices:

  • City attorney
  • City auditor
  • City council (3 seats)
  • Columbus City Schools Board of Education (3 seats)

In Cleveland, prospective candidates may file for the following municipal offices:

  • Mayor
  • City council (17 seats)
  • Municipal court judge

The primary elections are scheduled for May 4, and the general elections are scheduled for November 2.

Columbus and Cleveland are the first- and second-largest cities in Ohio, respectively. Columbus is the 16th-largest city in the United States by population, and Cleveland is the 48th-largest. The Columbus City Schools district is the largest school district in Ohio; it served 50,219 students as of the 2017-2018 school year.

Additional reading:

Judith French appointed Ohio Director of Insurance

Director of Insurance Judith French (R) was appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Jan. 19, to succeed interim director Tynesia Dorsey. 

The director is a cabinet-level executive position in the Ohio state government and the chief officer of the Department of Insurance. The director is responsible for ensuring the laws and regulations related to insurance are enforced across the state.

Prior to her appointment, French served on the Ohio Supreme Court from 2013 to 2021. She was first appointed to the court by Gov. John Kasich (R). She ran for re-election to the seat and was defeated in the general election on Nov. 3 by Jennifer L. Brunner (D).

The office of insurance commissioner is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.