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Press Release

Lawsuit Filed by Ohio Civic Groups, Black Ohioans, Muslim Ohioans, and Other Voters Harmed by State’s New, Partisan District Maps

Ohio Redistricting Commission’s partisan gerrymander makes it more difficult for Ohio’s communities of color, its Muslim population, and other Ohio voters and their interests to be fairly represented in the state legislature

September 27, 2021
Contact: Mireya Navarro, Media Contact, mireya.navarro@nyu.edu, 646-925-8760

Maps viol­ate the Ohio consti­tu­tion’s prohib­i­tion on partisan gerry­man­der­ing, would entrench a GOP super­ma­jor­ity in the state legis­lature 

For Imme­di­ate Release

Septem­ber 27, 2021 

Contact:

Bren­nan Center for Justice: Mia Navarro, mireya.navar­ro@nyu.edu, 646–925–8760

CAIR-Ohio: Tala Dahbour, tdah­bour@­cair.com, 614–401–2920

Ohio Envir­on­mental Coun­cil: Emily Bacha, ebacha@­theoec.org, 614–487–5837

Ohio Organ­iz­ing Collab­or­at­ive: Maki Somosot, maki@o­hor­gan­iz­ing.org, 720–487–6632

Reed Smith: Jamie Moss, jamie@news­pros.com, 201–788–0142 

This after­noon, three Ohio civic organ­iz­a­tions and six indi­vidual Ohioans filed suit in the Supreme Court of Ohio, seek­ing to block the state general assembly plan adop­ted by the Ohio Redis­trict­ing Commis­sion on Septem­ber 16 and require the commis­sion to draw new districts. The plaintiffs argue that the new plan’s maps viol­ate the prohib­i­tion against partisan gerry­man­der­ing and voters’ equal protec­tion and asso­ci­ational rights under the Ohio consti­tu­tion. 

“These maps should not be allowed to exist. Six years ago, Ohioans from every party and every county voted over­whelm­ingly to ban partisan gerry­man­der­ing in our state to stop maps like this from hoard­ing polit­ical power against the will of the people,” said Pier­ette “Petee” Talley, one of the named plaintiffs in The Ohio Organ­iz­ing Collab­or­at­ive v. Ohio Redis­trict­ing Commis­sion. “If the maps remain in place, millions of Ohioans, partic­u­larly Black Ohioans and other people of color who live in these gerry­mandered communit­ies like Toledo, won’t have a voice in any policies impact­ing their lives that come out of the Colum­bus state­house.” 

Repres­en­ted by the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law and Reed Smith, the plaintiffs assert that the new maps would all but guar­an­tee the GOP veto-proof super­ma­jor­it­ies in both houses of the legis­lature, in contrast with the Repub­lic­ans’ share of the vote in statewide and federal elec­tions over the past decade — 54 percent. 

The maps achieve this by “crack­ing” and “pack­ing” Demo­cratic-lean­ing voters: in some places, the state’s Demo­cratic-lean­ing voters are split up or “cracked” between districts to make them less likely to win elec­tions, while in others, Demo­cratic-lean­ing voters are crammed or “packed” into a few districts to minim­ize the number of districts where they might win. Many of Ohio’s Black and Muslim resid­ents are concen­trated in gerry­mandered districts, which would leave them with less power in the polit­ical system. 

“Ohio’s general assembly should fully repres­ent Ohio’s Black and brown communit­ies, not serve as a power trip for one polit­ical party,” said Jeniece Brock, policy and advocacy director of the Ohio Organ­iz­ing Collab­or­at­ive, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We need a repres­ent­at­ive and respons­ive govern­ment that hears our communit­ies’ voices on everything from access to health care, to student debt, to food and hous­ing secur­ity. The maps from the redis­trict­ing commis­sion essen­tially ensure that communit­ies of color in Ohio, like mine in Akron, will not have enough seats at the table to be heard.” 

In Novem­ber 2015, more than 71 percent of Ohioans voted to endpar­tisan gerry­man­der­ing and insti­tute a redis­trict­ing process that would guar­an­tee that no district plan for the Ohio General Assembly would be drawn to favor or disfa­vor a polit­ical party. That ballot proposal amended Article XI of the Ohio consti­tu­tion. 

“Ohioans don’t merely recog­nize the import­ance of redis­trict­ing. They voted to clean it up and make it serve its inten­ded purpose: fair repres­ent­a­tion for all,” said Alicia Bannon, managing director of the Demo­cracy Program at the Bren­nan Center for Justice. “Not only did the commis­sion fail to abide by the voters’ will, it did exactly what voters rejec­ted. By subvert­ing the demo­cratic process, the commis­sion created distor­ted and illegal maps that will harm Ohio’s voters and espe­cially voters of color.” 

The plaintiffs in The Ohio Organ­iz­ing Collab­or­at­ive v. Ohio Redis­trict­ing Commis­sion include: Ohio Organ­iz­ing Collab­or­at­ive, CAIR-Ohio, Ohio Envir­on­mental Coun­cil, Ahmad Aboukar, Crys­tal Bryant, Samuel Gresham Jr., Pren­tiss Haney, Mikayla Lee, and Pier­rette “Petee” Talley. 

The complaint and more inform­a­tion about the lawsuit can be found here. 

Addi­tional comments from plaintiffs and co-coun­sel: 

“The gerry­mandered maps uncon­sti­tu­tion­ally dilute the polit­ical power of the Ohio Muslim community by split­ting up the Muslim community in multiple cities across Ohio. As a civil rights and advocacy organ­iz­a­tion that seeks to empower Ohio Muslims and other margin­al­ized groups through civic engage­ment efforts, we are bring­ing this lawsuit to ensure that the maps fairly repres­ent the diversity in Ohio.” — Tala Dahbour, Policy Director, CAIR-Ohio 

“To ensure a healthy envir­on­ment for all who call Ohio home, we need a healthy demo­cracy. As Ohioans already face the impacts of climate change, we need a func­tion­ing state legis­lature respons­ive to the needs of the people, not partisan or corpor­ate interests. Every­one knows uncon­sti­tu­tional and gerry­mandered state legis­lat­ive district maps are a clear indic­a­tion of an unhealthy demo­cracy. The maps approved by the Ohio Redis­trict­ing Commis­sion completely disreg­ard the consti­tu­tional require­ment for propor­tional repres­ent­a­tion and partisan fair­ness. As a result, the gerry­mandered maps are a slap in the face to voters, and they will make it more diffi­cult for Ohioans to combat envir­on­mental injustice. The OEC is honored to join this lawsuit, fight against these unfair maps, and advoc­ate for what Ohioans deserve from their state legis­lature.” — Heather Taylor-Miesle, Exec­ut­ive Director, Ohio Envir­on­mental Coun­cil (OEC) 

“The Ohio commis­sion drew the lines to give one polit­ical party more than its fair share of repres­ent­a­tion, and its uncon­sti­tu­tional gerry­mander required this lawsuit.” — Brian Suth­er­land, a part­ner at Reed Smith 

“As a Dayton native and current resid­ent of Cincin­nati, I am person­ally famil­iar with the harm­ful impact of gerry­man­der­ing on my own community. The Black communit­ies in Dayton and Cincin­natitwo of the most gerry­mandered cities in the statehave been perpetu­ally under-resourced and under­val­ued. We’re demand­ing better for all Ohioanswhether Black, white, or brown, native or newcomerand push­ing for fair and equal polit­ical repres­ent­a­tion so all our voices can be heard.”Pren­tiss Haney, Cincin­nati