New State Legislative Districts Approved along Partisan Lines by the Ohio Redistricting Commission

On Saturday, the Ohio Redistricting Commission passed new Ohio House and Senate maps.. The first set of maps was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court as unconstitutional because they violated the Ohio Constitution’s requirement that maps must comply with representational fairness as defined in the constitution. It’s not yet clear if this second set will fare any better. The groups that sued the Ohio Redistricting Commission over the first set of maps have three days in which to put forward a challenge.

The new state legislative maps were passed along partisan lines, and as such, if they pass muster with the court, will be in place for four years. According to the two minority party members of the commission, they didn’t vote to pass the maps because they still failed to reach the required ratio for proportional representation, among other reasons.

The predicted partisan breakdown of the new Ohio House map is being described as:  

  • 57 Republican-leaning House districts 
  • 42 Democratic-leaning districts 

However, since twelve of the Democratic-leaning seats have a partisan index of between 50% and 51%, the breakdown could also be described as:

  • 57 Republican-leaning House districts 
  • 30 Democratic-leaning House districts
  • 12 toss-ups (Democratic-leaning by 1% or less)

Note that all the Republican-leaning districts, on the other hand, have a partisan index of at least 52%. 

Similarly, the predicted partisan breakdown of the new Ohio Senate map is being described as: 

  • 20 Republican-leaning Senate districts 
  • 13 Democratic-leaning districts  

However, four of the Democratic-leaning Senate districts are highly competitive, while all but one Republican-leaning Senate district has a partisan index favoring Republicans above 54%. Therefore, the breakdown could also be described as:

  • 20 Republican-leaning Senate districts 
  • 9 Democratic-leaning Senate districts
  • 4 toss-ups (Democratic-leaning by 1% or less)

Clearly, these maps are closer to providing the “representational fairness” mandated in the Ohio Constitution than the ones that were struck down by the court, but they still do not reach the 54% Republican/46% Democratic ratio explicitly called for by the court.

  • Click here for the Ohio House map submitted by the plaintiffs
  • Click here for the Ohio Senate map submitted by the plaintiffs

While these Ohio House and Senate maps might be new, the backroom negotiations that produced them are not. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

The letter that Fair Districts sent to the Commission last week fell on deaf ears.

After the Ohio Supreme Court forced state leaders to go back to the drawing board and draw fair maps, we all hoped we would finally get a transparent redistricting process that lived up to the promise of the redistricting reform that voters overwhelmingly passed in 2018.

Instead, the Ohio Redistricting Commission deliberately cut Ohioans out of the remedial redistricting process. The Commission failed to provide the traditional meeting notices and instead went into recess on Thursday, January 20 around 5:30pm and did not reconvene until Saturday, January 22 after 3:00pm. The Ohio Redistricting Commission ignored calls to provide time for public testimony and only unveiled draft maps to the public – well after most of the decision-making on the maps was apparently completed.

The Ohio Supreme Court said it best, “We reject the notion that Ohio voters rallied so strongly behind an anti-gerrymandering amendment to the Ohio Constitution yet believed at the time that the amendment was toothless.”

Ohioans overwhelmingly approved this new process for drawing fair Ohio House and Senate maps and the Ohio Supreme Court made their expectations clear. Voters deserve better.