COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Is Ohio’s new congressional map unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans who controlled the mapmaking process? That’s the question being argued Tuesday before the Ohio Supreme Court.
At issue is the new map showing boundaries for 15 U.S. House districts Ohio was allotted by the 2020 census, down from the current 16 due to lagging population.
As COVID-19 surges again, justices plan to hear from attorneys over video.
Two lawsuits on behalf of Ohio voters contend it’s indisputable that the map “‘unduly’ favors the Republican Party.” The suits are being brought by the National Democratic Redistricting Commission’s legal arm, as well as the Ohio offices of the League of Women Voters and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
The latter two groups surmise the map includes 13 Republican districts — 10 safe seats and three “arguably competitive” ones that also favor the GOP — and only two safe Democratic districts. That’s 67% of seats for Republicans, despite their candidates receiving only about 54% of votes in statewide races over the past decade, the two groups’ lawsuit said.
Meanwhile, the NDRC’s constitutional challenge contends the map leans 12-3 in favor of Republicans, although the GOP describes it as 6-2, with the remaining seven districts being competitive.
Republicans have called the map constitutional, fair and competitive. It sprinted through the Ohio Statehouse last month and passed without Democratic support, and was signed days later by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. Because it got no backing from Democrats, the map will hold for just four years, rather than the typical 10.
Both lawsuits target DeWine and the other members of the powerful Ohio Redistricting Commission, rather than the Legislature.
Voters empowered the commission with a potentially pivotal role in approving Ohio’s legislative and congressional district maps, but the panel missed its deadline for approving a congressional map without taking a vote. That punted the process back to the GOP-led Legislature, which approved the map despite Democrats’ objections.