Editorial: In voting for admittedly flawed maps, DeWine and LaRose abrogated their duty to Ohioans

A recent editorial by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

What were Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose thinking in voting for what they both acknowledged were deeply flawed — and in DeWine’s case, possibly unconstitutional — gerrymanders of state legislative districts?

Under 2015 voter-adopted reforms, one party cannot dictate 10-year redistricting maps — but it can create four-year maps, as long as they meet Ohio constitutional requirements.

By its 5-2 party-line vote late Wednesday — just within the constitutional deadline — the Republican majority on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, including DeWine and LaRose, created four-year Ohio Senate and Ohio House maps that flout voters’ intent to prevent overtly partisan gerrymandering.

The other three commission Republicans voting “yes” were state Auditor Keith Faber, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman.

Given their reservations, DeWine and LaRose could have instead sided with the commission’s two Democrats, state Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, a father-daughter duo from Akron, to insist on fairer maps.

They didn’t.

Now, the skewed maps almost guarantee that the courts will step in.

Among other problems, the maps grotesquely slice and dice the majority Black city of Cleveland, raising concerns that the maps violate federal law by diluting Black voting power. Further, in carving up Cleveland and other communities, the maps also fail to adhere to the voter-approved Ohio constitutional reforms requiring keeping communities intact and not using the process to advance partisan aims instead of reflecting voting patterns of the past decade.

Maybe a judicial fix is what DeWine and LaRose are counting on.

But that’s an abrogation of the first order in their obligation to the people of Ohio. When they had the power to influence the redistricting process to a fairer, more constitutional outcome, DeWine and LaRose both whiffed.

… It is hard to reconcile with their oaths of office the governor and secretary of state’s almost blasé attitudes — voting for flawed maps despite expressed qualms.

In taking office, they both solemnly swore to “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Ohio” and to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all of the duties incumbent upon me.”

Their actions last week were not a faithful and impartial discharge of their duties.

This is especially so when it comes to DeWine.

Even if the governor is looking over his shoulder at a GOP electorate in Ohio that’s swung rightward and that rose up against him and his then-health director, Dr. Amy Acton, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s no excuse for shirking his duties now.

The Ohio Constitution provides the governor with supreme executive power. It does not say he should subsume himself to his party, or to its chief legislative leaders, Huffman and Cupp.

It says he should lead. What DeWine, and LaRose, did in signing off last week on maps they knew were wrong was the opposite of leadership.

— Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sept. 19