The Equal Districts Coalition held a "People's Redistricting Hearing and Rally" on the Ohio Statehouse steps on Wednesday, calling for public hearings on congressional redistricting maps that they said should have already been held by the official Ohio Redistricting Commission.
Despite a looming Oct. 31 deadline, the Ohio Redistricting Commission has as yet scheduled no public meetings on future congressional maps. The coalition plans to have their own virtual public hearings on Thursday and Oct. 25 and 26.
“The lack of leadership to follow through with the will of the people is troubling to say the least,” said Chris Tavenor, a staff attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council, one of the members of the coalition.
Rev. Ray Greene, Jr., executive director of the Freedom BLOC (Black Led Organizing Collaborative), contended the current district lines do not provide fair representation.
"The government is ran by the people, and the only way that the people can run the government is to be involved in the government," Greene asserted prior to the rally. "We have to have grassroots leadership; we have to have our issues at the forefront of everybody's agenda. We have to demand that our elected officials do what's best for us."
Democrats on the commission are calling for public hearings, which House Speaker Republican Bob Cupp has said will "probably be scheduled in the near future." The map will have 15 congressional districts, since Ohio lost a seat in the census.
Tala Dahbour, policy director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Ohio, said she is fighting for fair maps to ensure minority voices are empowered and part of the political process. She added for far too long, minority groups have been disenfranchised.
"The biggest mosque in Central Ohio is split between multiple congressional and state districts," Dahbour observed. "And so, any collective action taken from that Muslim community is diluted. Whatever power their voice might have had, it's now weakened through redistricting."
Meanwhile, the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved a state district map last month opponents argued solidifies a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly.Greene thinks Black and Muslim communities will pay the price.
"We're being even more left out of the decision-making process," Greene stressed. "I haven't seen the congressional maps yet, but as far as the state House maps, we are being gentrified even more than we have been before. That's why these maps need to be deemed illegal that have been drawn at the state level."
Under the state's new redistricting process, the maps will have to be redrawn in four years, because they passed without bipartisan support. Three lawsuits alleging constitutional violations are pending, although Republican commission members maintain the maps are fair and legal.
The official redistricting commission has until the end of the month to approve a map. If they fail to do so, the process heads back to the legislature.
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