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Ohio Supreme Court considering redistricting challenges

Written on Sep 30, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

As anticipated, the Ohio Supreme Court now has three lawsuits challenging the maps for the Ohio House and Senate after three Ohio civic groups and six individuals announced they had filed a challenge with the Court Sept. 27.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission on Sept. 16 adopted along party lines new General Assembly district maps that would be limited to four years. All three lawsuits are seeking to have the Court order new maps be drawn immediately.

The latest lawsuit, Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission – which includes the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Ohio – argues that the new maps violate the prohibition against partisan gerrymandering and voters' equal protection and associational rights under the Ohio Constitution. The groups are being represented by the Brennan Center for Justice and attorney Reed Smith.

The lawsuit argues that the maps all but guarantee Republicans veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers, despite their share of the vote in statewide and federal elections over the past decade. They said the maps achieve this result by "cracking" and "packing" Democratic leaning voters between districts to minimize the number of districts where they might win. The groups said many of Ohio's Black and Muslim residents are concentrated in gerrymandered districts, giving them less political power.

That lawsuit follows ones filed recently by the ACLU of Ohio and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. It makes many of the same arguments as the other lawsuits, including that the new plans do not follow the voting patterns of Ohio voters over the last decade, which supported Republicans with about 54 percent of the vote. The mapmakers argued that because Republicans won 13 of 16 statewide races, Republican support could be as much as 81 percent.

The Court in all three lawsuits ordered the parties to file any evidence they intend to present no later than Oct. 22. Additionally, the court said the plaintiffs shall file a brief no later than Oct. 29; respondents shall file a brief no later than Nov. 5; and plaintiffs may file a reply brief no later than Nov. 10. The Court barred any requests for an extension of time.

The Court also scheduled the first lawsuit that was filed by the League of Women Voters and the ACLU of Ohio for oral arguments on Dec. 8.