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Ohio Redistricting Litigation: Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission (Ohio Supreme Court); Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. LaRose (Southern District of Ohio)

The Brennan Center and co-counsel filed suit in the Supreme Court of Ohio on behalf of several community groups and Ohio voters challenging the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s extreme partisan gerrymander of the state’s legislative maps. We also intervened in a federal lawsuit where right-wing activists asked the court to disregard the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling.

Published: September 24, 2021

On September 16, 2021, just after midnight, the Ohio Redistricting Commission voted 5–2 on party lines to adopt a district plan designed to entrench a 3/5 veto-proof Republican supermajority in both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly for the next four years. In doing so, the commission ignored a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by Ohio voters in 2015 that bans partisan gerrymandering, requiring that the commission refrain from drawing districts primarily to favor or disfavor a political party and adopt a district plan under which the number of districts favoring each party is proportional to the statewide preferences of voters. The plan enacted by the commission especially harmed and burdened the state’s fast-growing communities of color.

Ohio Supreme Court Litigation (Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission)

On September 27, 2021, the Brennan Center and co-counsel Reed Smith LLP filed a complaint in the Supreme Court of Ohio, challenging the commission’s newly enacted district plan on behalf of a diverse coalition of community groups and civic leaders who organize around or are a part of the communities of color that stand to lose the most under this gerrymandered map. The suing parties (who are called Petitioners) alleged that the enacted plan is a severe partisan gerrymander in violation of numerous provisions of the Ohio Constitution, including the recently-enacted partisan fairness provisions, the Equal Protection and Benefit Clause, and the Freedom of Speech and Association Clauses. The Petitioners asked the Court to block use of the enacted plan and order the creation of fair maps.

The Petitioners were the Ohio Organizing Collaborative; the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ohio; the Ohio Environmental Council; and six individual Ohio voters: Pierrette Talley, Samuel Gresham Jr., Ahmad Aboukar, Mikayla Lee, Prentiss Haney, and Crystal Bryant, who live in different parts of the state impacted by gerrymandered maps.

The district plan was also challenged in two other cases before the Supreme Court of Ohio: (1) League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission (Case No. 2021–1193); and (2) Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission (Case No. 2021–1198).

The Court heard oral argument in this case in early December 2021. On January 12, 2022, a 4–3 majority of the Court invalidated the commission’s new legislative maps, upholding the partisan fairness and proportionality provisions of the Ohio Constitution and declining to rule on other claims. The Court remanded and ordered the commission to adopt a new set of maps.

From January 2022 to May 2022, the commission adopted a number of revised maps, repeatedly refusing to pass constitutionally compliant maps. Each time, the Petitioners objected to the continued gerrymandered plans and the Ohio Supreme Court struck down each attempt. Briefly, the commission enacted a revised plan on January 22, 2022 (struck down on February 7); the commission enacted another plan on February 24 (struck down on March 16); it passed its fourth plan on March 28, 2022 (struck down on April 14); and it attempted to re-submit its unconstitutional February 24 plan on May 6 (struck down again on May 25). 

Federal Court Litigation (Gonidakis v. LaRose)

During these remedial efforts, right-wing activists filed a case in federal court. This case, Gonidakis v. LaRose (Case No. 2:22-cv-00773-ALM-ART-BJB), was heard in the Southern District of Ohio before a panel of three judges. The Gonidakis plaintiffs who filed the case claimed that the commission reached impasse and that the federal court should step in and impose one of the unconstitutional plans that the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated.

The Brennan Center and co-counsel from Reed Smith LLP and Miller Canfield filed a motion to intervene on behalf of our clients. This motion was granted officially making the Ohio Organizing Collaborative et al. intervenor-plaintiffs in the case.

On March 30, 2022, the federal court held a hearing where it established that it would only get involved as a matter of last resort. The judges determined that August 2 would be the most practicable date for a primary election and, as a result, maps must be in place by April 20 to give enough time for Ohio election administrators to prepare. Having established this timeline, the trial court instructed all parties to submit their proposed remedy should the federal court need to impose maps.

On April 20, 2022, the federal court announced that it would not intervene in the state’s redistricting process until May 28. The commission made no attempt to enact a new plan in time, and so the federal court ordered the use of the commission’s unconstitutional third plan for the 2022 election cycle. 

Remedial Process After the 2022 Election (Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission)

Following the use of unconstitutional maps in the 2022 election, the Ohio Redistricting Commission reconvened in September 2023 and passed a new plan on October 2, 2023, blowing past the June 2022 court imposed deadline by approximately 500 days. Once again, Petitioners filed objections because the latest plan, like the commission’s prior maps, did not correspond to the preferences of Ohio voters.  

On November 27, 2023, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to consider the objections and dismissed the case. The court wrote that, because the most recent maps were approved by the commission across party lines, the circumstances surrounding these maps were different and warranted dismissal.



Ohio Supreme Court

Original Plan

Second Plan

Third Plan

Fourth Plan

Re-Submission of Third Plan

Fifth Plan

District Court

Jurisdiction Stage

Merits Stage

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