Groups that won suits over Ohio maps submit their own plan
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The winners of lawsuits challenging Ohio’s gerrymandered legislative maps submitted their own plan for new lines to the state’s redistricting panel Friday, signaling a possible path to ending legal wrangling as 2022 elections approach.
“Our teams worked with redistricting experts and data analysts to create constitutional maps that are technically perfect, and that accurately reflect Ohio voter preferences and Ohio communities,” ACLU of Ohio legal director Freda Levenson said in a statement.
The submission came as members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission and their staff experts were shuttling between private and public meetings to negotiate a fix by Saturday to earlier Republican-drawn maps of Ohio House and Ohio Senate districts. Those lines were tossed Jan. 12 by the Ohio Supreme Court, which found they unduly favored the GOP.
Levenson said commissioners and staff were working hard Friday to meet the deadline they’ve set of midnight Saturday, but court rules actually give them until Monday. She couldn’t say what might happen if the deadline is missed.
“We would be in uncharted territory,” she said. “I don’t think that anyone would benefit from the kind of crisis that would be created.”
Both the Republican and Democratic caucuses rolled out their own updated proposals at a hearing Thursday as the starting point to compromise. Both sides asked extensive technical questions, particularly about the way the heavily Democratic Cincinnati and Columbus areas will be divvied up.
Litigants behind the alternative plan submitted Friday include the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the legal arm of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Ohio voter Bria Bennett and others.
The plan “satisfies every technical line-drawing rule set forth” in the constitution, Levenson said, “as well as the constitutional requirements that the seat share correspond closely to voters’ statewide preferences and that the plan avoid primarily favoring or disfavoring one political party.”
Under the first round of maps, Republicans were favored to win 62 of 99 seats (62%) in the Ohio House and 23 of 33 seats (almost 70%) in the Ohio Senate, a striking departure from the state’s political mix of 54% Republicans and 46% Democrats.
The petitioners’ plan is likely to result in 56 Republicans and 43 Democrats being elected to the Ohio House, and 18 Republicans and 15 Democrats being elected to the Ohio Senate.
Marina Jenkins, litigation director for the National Redistricting Action Fund, said justices laid out a path to creating constitutional maps and this “offers a fair and constitutionally-compliant map that more accurately reflects the will of the people.”
The commission’s seven members are Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Auditor Keith Faber, all Republicans; Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp, both Republicans; and Sen. Vernon Sykes and incoming House Minority Leader Alison Russo, both Democrats.
Under a 2015 constitutional amendment, both Democrats must support the map for it to remain in place for a full 10 years, reflecting population changes recorded in the 2020 census. Otherwise, the map lasts only four years.