The Fair Districts Ohio coalition strongly rejects the claim that the second set of Ohio General Assembly maps produced by the Ohio Redistricting Commission are constitutional or that they abide by the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling. Furthermore, we reject the suggestion that a ruling on this second set of General Assembly maps be delayed or that gerrymandered voting districts be used for the 2022 primary and general elections: there is no reason why intransigence, obstruction, and refusal to follow the rules should be rewarded.
“Political convenience can never substitute for constitutional requirements,” said Collin Marozzi of ACLU Ohio. “To suggest unconstitutional districts should be allowed to stand because of a self-inflicted time crunch gives added proof that members of the Commission didn’t understand their assignment.”
Instead of burdening Ohio voters with an unconstitutional map for two years—a full half of the life-span of the four-year map—the court should instruct the Ohio Redistricting Commission to go back to the drawing board. A new, bipartisan map, should be based on those already submitted to the Commission. The court could call for it to be completed in no more than a handful of days.
“The majority members of the Commission have no one to blame but themselves, first of all for proposing an unconstitutional map not once but twice—but also for not getting started on this important work as early as possible,” said Jen Miller of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “Fair Districts wrote to the Commission on April 5, 2021, urging them to get to work, to hold public hearings, to hear from experts, to consider moving the 2022 primary—any and everything to make sure Ohio voters did not end up holding the short end of the stick. The Commissioners never even responded to our letter. The disrespect for Ohio voters is epic.”
In its ruling, the court was unambiguous that the commission needed to follow the law and draw proportional maps that live up to the spirit and letter of the redistricting reforms of 2015 that are a binding part of the Ohio Constitution.
“Through obstruction, delay, obfuscation, and attempted slight-of-hand, the majority members on the Commission sought to thwart the new redistricting rules in the Ohio Constitution and the ruling of the court,” said Mia Lewis of Common Cause Ohio. ”This is unacceptable. Ohio voters need and deserve fair maps that represent how Ohioans vote and give a voice to all.”
We urge the court to strongly rebuke such a naked (blatant) refusal to abide by their ruling. If the majority members of the Commission are incapable of working in good faith, the court should task the minority members with drawing a fair and proportional set of maps that meet the requirements of the Ohio Constitution and the ruling of the court.
On Jan. 22, the Ohio Redistricting Commission produced and passed, by a 5-2 party line vote, a second set of gerrymandered Ohio General Assembly maps. Despite the bipartisan ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that district maps should not be manipulated to the detriment of voters or for political gain, the commission’s latest district maps still did not meet the requirements of the Ohio constitution.
In response, on Jan. 25, the groups that sued the Ohio Redistricting Commission over the first round of General Assembly maps filed official objections with the Court, pointing out a number of ways the new maps continued to violate both the Ohio Constitution and the court’s ruling. They asked the Court to enforce the fairness and proportionality requirements set forth in Section 6 and reject this second attempt to gerrymander Ohio’s legislative districts.
Today, the majority members of the Commission filed a response, defending their maps as essentially “constitutional enough” and calling, among other things, for the court to rule by February 11 or delay legal arguments till after the 2022 elections, using the second maps in the meantime.