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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 have also intervened in a federal lawsuit where right-wing activists have 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 harms and burdens the state’s fast-grow­ing communit­ies of color.

On Septem­ber 27, 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 are 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 is also being 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.

Since mid-January, the commission has adopted a number of revised maps. Each time, the Petitioners objected to the continued gerrymandered plans and the Ohio Supreme Court has 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); and it passed a third on March 28, 2022 (struck down on April 14). The commission now has until May 6, 2022 to produce a constitutional plan.

Gonidakis v. LaRose (federal court)

During the ongoing remedial efforts, right-wing activists filed a case in federal court. This case, Gonidakis v. Ohio Redistricting Commission (Case No. 2:22-cv-00773-ALM-ART-BJB), is now pending in the Southern District of Ohio before a panel of three judges. The Gonidakis plaintiffs that filed the case claim that the commission has 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. If the commission or state court fail to adopt a new plan by that date, the federal court intends to impose a map previously invalidated by the trial court as a partisan gerrymander in violation of the state constitution.



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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