Julie Carr Smyth

Commissioner denied to oversee 3 Ohio redistricting suits

October 5, 2021 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court denied a request Tuesday by attorneys in two of three lawsuits brought against the state’s newly drawn legislative maps to appoint a master commissioner to oversee the disputes.

Lawyers for voters represented by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative had told the high court in a filing Monday that the special oversight was needed to resolve discovery disputes between three legal teams that have sued and lawyers for Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

In an order signed by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the court declined the request but gave state officials until 9 a.m. Wednesday to respond to the groups’ discovery requests.

The suits allege some overlapping and some separate violations of the Ohio Constitution by the panel, which was forced to pass four-year maps along party lines because majority Republicans failed to reach agreement with the panel’s two Democrats. The panel’s GOP members defend the maps of Ohio House and Ohio Senate as fair and constitutional.

They are predicted to continue to deliver supermajorities to Republicans in both chambers, though the state’s partisan breakdown is roughly 54% Republicans, 46% Democrats.

Lawyers for the organizing collaborative had told the court Monday that attorneys for Republican commissioners, including legislative leaders and Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Auditor Keith Faber, interpreted the cases’ expedited schedule to preclude discovery, and so were refusing to allow questioning of commission members or production of documents without a court order.