by J.D. Davidson
Two more lawsuits have been filed with the Ohio Supreme Court challenging Republican drawn legislative district maps, claiming they are unconstitutional and gerrymandered.
The most-recent challenge came Monday from the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and was filed by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law and the law firm Reed Smith.
The lawsuit claims the recently approved maps dilute the political power of Ohio Muslims by splitting Muslim communities in cities across Ohio, including Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton. It argues the map violates the Ohio Constitution by not reflecting statewide voting preferences.
“It is very unfortunate that public input was ignored by the Redistricting Commission and that the district lines were drawn on a completely partisan basis,” CAIR-Ohio Policy Director Tala Dahbour said. “We are bringing this lawsuit to ensure that the Ohio Muslim community is not ignored and so that CAIR-Ohio can continue to effectively represent the community and to defend civil rights, including the right to vote.”
Monday’s lawsuit followed the American Civil Liberty Union’s filing Thursday and another filed last week by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Ohio has been one of the most gerrymandered states in the country for the past decade. Yet the state legislative maps adopted by Republicans in the dark of night are somehow worse still,” Holder said in a news release. “They utterly fail to meet either the letter or the spirit of the 2015 reform law. The proposed maps fail to reflect the makeup of the state as a whole and dilute the political power of communities of color.”
Ohio Republicans said the lawsuits come from Washington elitists and far-left groups.
“First it was Barack Obama’s lawyer, then Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, and now another elitist New York/D.C. think tank funded by George Soros wants to lecture Ohioans about their far-left version of fairness,” said John Fortney, director of communications for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission approved four-year maps, 5-2, nearly two weeks ago on a straight party-line vote with the commission’s two Democrats voting against the new districts.
Lawmakers previously drew maps every 10 years after the release of new census data, but Ohio voters established the commission, which includes the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, two members of the House and two members of the Senate.
If the commission unanimously passes maps, they are good for 10 years. If they pass with only a majority, they last for four years before being redrawn. The maps passed Sept. 16 likely lock-in a Republican veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly.
The ACLU’s lawsuit said Republicans have received between 46.2% and 59.7% of the statewide vote over the past decade. The new enacted map draws 67% of the House districts and 69% of the Senate districts to favor Republicans.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist at The Center Square with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.
Photo “Council Residential Districting Commission” by City of Columbus.