by J.D. Davidson
The Ohio Redistricting Commission wants the Ohio Supreme Court to allow a second round of state legislative district maps to stand at least through this year’s elections.
The request comes as part of the commission’s response to challenges to the new maps that were forced to be redrawn after the court ruled the original maps illegally favored Republicans.
The commission asked for a decision by Feb. 11 or stay the issue until after the 2022 general election, allowing the revised plan to stay in effect until then.
It argued key election administration deadlines ahead of the state’s May 3 primary are quickly approaching.
“These candidates need certainty as to the district in which they will run so that they can file their petitions. And though the primary date – May 3, 2022 – may seem far away now, we must remember that Ohio no longer has just an Election Day. It is more accurate to describe May 3, 2022, as the day that voting in the primary election ends,” according to the commission’s court filings.
The Ohio Supreme Court allowed the 2012 legislative elections to take place using 2011 maps while new maps were challenged. The court then decided the case after the election.
“Boards of election, candidates and the voters who need to know who is vying to represent them need certainty and proceeding pursuant to the map under challenge will provide it,” according to court papers.
The court ordered a map that more closely reflected the state’s 54% Republican to 46% Democrat voting breakdown. The first maps favored the GOP by 62% in the House and nearly 70% in the Senate. The new maps give the GOP a 57-42 advantage in the House and a 20-13 advantage in the Senate.
The commission argued in court filings the new maps “closely corresponds” to the voter preferences defined by the court and should stand. The new maps show 58.3% Republican leaning districts, above the court-ordered 54%.
“The Revised Plan satisfies Section 6’s requirement that the Commission attempt to achieve proportionality,” the commission’s court papers read. “In any event, as explained above, in adopting the Revised Plan, the Commission did engage in a procedure that addressed all of the procedural deficiencies that the Court identified in the original process.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the ACLU filed objections last week night on behalf of the League of Women Voters Ohio, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and several individuals.
The objections included charges the new plan does not meet the proportionality the court ordered.
“The Ohio Redistricting Commission was given a second opportunity to do the right thing: to produce fair and compliant maps; however, the majority-members once again defied the Ohio Constitution and the Ohio Supreme Court and put politics over people,” said Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio. “But under our state’s law, politicians do not get to choose their voters. We ask 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.”
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist for 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.