by J.D. Davidson
A federal court gave the Ohio Redistricting Commission until May 28 to draw state legislative redistricting maps that meet a court order, or it will implement a previously rejected map so the state can hold an Aug. 2 primary.
The three-judge panel, voting 2-1, said it would impose the commission’s third set of maps because the state had started preparing to use those maps before they were declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Democrats on the commission called the ruling an opportunity for commissioners to draw and implement constitutional districts.
“Tonight, the federal court showed that they do not appreciate the Republican commissioners passing the buck,” House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said. “The federal court gave us another six weeks to draw state legislative maps. Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court directed us to produce constitutional maps by May 6. We have work to do, and we need to start now. We have the time, resources, and ability to do this right. We will not quit. We will never stop fighting for Ohioans’ freedom to vote in fair districts.”
A spokesperson for Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said he is reviewing the opinion.
The ruling also said the federal court would order Ohio’s second primary – which will be for state house and senate elections – to be Aug. 2 if the deadline isn’t met. The supreme court, when it ruled last week that the state’s fourth attempt at state legislative districts was unconstitutional, questioned why the state could not have the primary later in August or September, as other states do.
“It is unclear as to why August 2, 2022, is the last available date for the primary election in Ohio. We note that several states will have primary elections on August 16, 2022, or later, including four states that will have their primary elections in September,” the court said in its opinion. “Thus, on the record before us, the so-called April 20 ‘deadline’ for implementing a General Assembly-district plan appears to be an artificial deadline that is based on speculative, potential primary-election date for state legislative races.”
Earlier this week, the Ohio Association of Election Officials said the state’s unique laws and processes required Aug. 2 to be the last date available to allow the same rules to be followed for the November general election.
Also, in a letter to Ohio General Assembly leadership, Secretary of State Frank LaRose reinforced that point and said he wanted to correct what he called misinformation provided in the supreme court’s ruling.
“Let me be clear: There’s nothing artificial about the timelines provided by my officer to the court. As you will see, our guidance is based on the law and simple math, not, as one dissenting justice put it, ‘the latest manifestation of the majority’s shifting whims.’” LaRose wrote.
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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.