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Back in Court Challenging Ohio’s Unfair Voting Maps

The state supreme court struck down the previous maps, but the replacements still contain partisan gerrymandering in violation of the Ohio Constitution.

Last Updated: February 7, 2022
Published: January 27, 2022

Update: On February 7, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected legislative maps that the Ohio Redistricting Commission had redrawn per the court’s order, finding that they violated the state constitution’s prohibitions against partisan gerrymandering.

On Wednesday, community groups and Ohio voters represented by the Brennan Center and the law firm Reed Smith asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block newly passed maps for the state general assembly. The Ohio Redistricting Commission passed these maps this month, just 10 days after the state supreme court struck down an earlier plan for violating the Ohio Constitution’s prohibitions against partisan gerrymandering. But instead of going back to the drawing board to pass a fair map, the commission is trying to slap some paint on what amounts to a broken foundation.

The petitioners include the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, CAIR-Ohio, the Ohio Environmental Council, and numerous Ohio voters who want fair maps for their communities. They’re asking the Ohio Supreme Court to declare the commission’s maps invalid and order the commission to enact new ones that comply with the Ohio Constitution’s partisan fairness mandates.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment in 2015 to end Ohio’s long history of partisan gerrymandering. Yet the commission’s new map flouts the voters’ wishes and ignores clear constitutional mandates. The resulting map especially burdens Ohio’s Black and Muslim communities, many of which are concentrated in gerrymandered districts.

The facts are clear: the new maps were drawn by Republican map drawers and passed on party lines. To purportedly achieve “proportionality” in the Ohio House of Representatives, as required by the state constitution, the commission converted Republican districts into razor-thin Democratic ones while leaving Republicans in safe seats. All told, 14 Democratic seats are toss-up districts while zero Republican-leaning districts fall into the same category.

The result is stark asymmetry in voting power: With 50 percent of the vote, Democratic voters are expected to win about 43 percent of house seats, while Republicans would win 57 percent. If there is a 2 percent shift toward Republicans in the statewide vote, they can expect to win 71 percent of house seats. The revised senate map fares no better: Republicans enjoy a veto-proof supermajority with only 54 percent of the statewide vote. 

Not surprisingly, these maps came out of a process that was rife with partisan gamesmanship. The commission used the unconstitutional map as a starting point rather than fairer plans that had been submitted to it for consideration. It declined to use an independent map drawer, relying instead on the party caucuses. 

The people of Ohio have made it clear that partisan gerrymanders should have no place in the state — and the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed that principle just this month. We are back in court to ensure that Ohio’s general assembly maps reflect these basic values.