by J.D. Davidson
Groups that successfully challenged the constitutionality of the third set of Ohio state legislative redistricting maps will likely challenge again after the Ohio Redistricting Commission resubmitted the previously thrown out maps.
The commission voted 4-3 late Thursday to send back its third attempt at Senate and House districts, even though the court had already ruled they unfairly favored Republicans. The Ohio Supreme Court had set a 9 a.m. Friday deadline for maps to be submitted.
“I don’t think members of this commission could be more contemptuous of Ohio Constitution, the Ohio voters and the Ohio Supreme Court. It’s utterly disturbing that our democracy doesn’t matter more to the leaders of this state,” Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said after the vote. “We’re not going to stop. We will continue any legal efforts we can, and we will look at other ways to reform the process.”
The vote was the same as in February with all Republicans, except State Treasurer Keith Faber voting for the maps, and the two commission Democrats voting against.
Faber voted against the maps in February and Thursday because he thought too many districts favored Democrats.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the third set of maps would be the only maps elections officials could use to make sure state and federal laws would be met for the second state primary, which will most likely be Aug. 2.
LaRose said the third set of maps had already been programmed in computers at county boards of election.
Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napolean, who was appointed to replace Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said the maps would only be used for the 2022 election.
However, the constitutional amendment passed by voters that established the commission gave options for only a 10-year nonpartisan map or four-year partisan maps.
State Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Arkon, said the commission had more than enough time to produce new maps in the 22 days since the most-recent court ruling.
“The majority has squandered our time, refused to work together and robbed Ohioans of the fairness they’ve demanded and deserve,” Sykes said. “We could have adopted a number of constitutional plans, including the maps that the independent map drawers created. Saying we didn’t have the time to comply is a highly irresponsible affront to the Ohio Supreme Court and to the people of the state of Ohio. Our work to end gerrymandering is not over, and I will not give up until Ohio has fair, constitutional maps.”
House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, called the process an “attempted coup” and the situation “manufactured.”
“We have a duty to Ohio voters and the Constitution to produce legal and fair state legislative districts,” Russo said. “This is an egregious violation of the public’s trust in the democratic process and in the rule of law. We are witnessing an attempted coup by politicians in power who manufactured this crisis and failed to take court-ordered action. This isn’t over. Ohioans won’t forget that Republicans cheated them out of the fair, constitutional maps they demanded, and we will not give up.”
The Supreme Court has given no indication on when it might rule on the commission’s most recent submission. A panel of three federal judges, however, ruled in a 2-1 vote that they would impose the third set of commission maps if the group did not draw state legislative redistricting maps that meet a court order by May 28.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Frank LaRose” by Frank LaRose. Background Photo “Ohio Supreme Court” by Ohio Supreme Court.