Legal groups sue Ohio redistricting commission, allege partisan gerrymandering

Legal groups sue Ohio redistricting commission, allege partisan gerrymandering
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Thursday filed a lawsuit on behalf of legal rights groups and individual voters, arguing that Ohio’s recently approved redistricting maps unfairly favor the Republican Party. 

In the complaint, the ACLU, the group’s Ohio division and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP argued that “Ohio’s Redistricting Commission enacted maps that are intended to, and will, entrench a Republican veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of Ohio’s General Assembly for the next four years.” 

The groups went on to argue that the maps were a result of “extreme partisan gerrymandering” that violate a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in 2015 to prevent politically motivated redistricting. 

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The Republican-dominated commission, which includes state legislative leaders and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWineMike DeWineOhio corrects Wright Brothers error on new license plates Minnesota to offer 0 gift cards, scholarships as vaccine incentives to kids Republican candidates tack toward right on abortion MORE (R), approved the district maps last week in a 5-2 party line vote. 

Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, said in a press briefing Thursday that “Republican commissioners have admitted that over the last 10 years, they have received only 55 percent of the statewide votes, but the map they drew for themselves provides them with a locked-in super majority.”  

The legal complaint alleged that the approved Ohio maps put 67 percent of House districts and 69 percent of Senate districts in favor of Republicans. 

Levenson said in a statement that the groups are requesting that the Ohio Supreme Court demand the commission draw new maps “to ensure that Ohio voters are able to have a voice in their government.” 

“This extreme partisan gerrymander is a flagrant violation of the Ohio Constitution,” she added. “We are going to this state’s highest court to ensure that Ohio voters are able to have a voice in their government.” 

The lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the Ohio chapter of the African American trade union group the A. Philip Randolph Institute, as well as a group of individual Ohio voters. 

Jen Miller, president of Ohio’s League of Women Voters, told reporters Thursday that “partisan gerrymandering is an insidious form of voter discrimination that harms every Ohioan, regardless to where they live or how they vote.” 

Ohio state Sen. Vernon Sykes, co-chair of the commission and one of two Democrats who voted against the new maps last week, said in a statement shared with The Hill that "thanks to the redistricting reform overwhelmingly passed by Ohio voters in 2015, the Ohio Constitution not only outlines how lawmakers can draw state legislative maps, but also what constitutes a fair, non-gerrymandered map." 

"Unfortunately, the maps adopted last week by the Republican members of the Redistricting Commission do not comply with those requirements," he added. "They favor one political party and do not meet the litmus test of fairness and proportionality described by the Constitution.”

Aaron Mulvey, spokesperson for Republican House Speaker and Commission Co-Chair Robert Cupp, said in a statement to The Hill, “Lawsuits happen every time there is a new map."
 
"We knew this was coming, and the state will defend the constitutional maps approved by the Redistricting Commission," he added. 

Warnings of gerrymandering have ramped up in recent weeks as states participate in the once-a-decade redistricting cycle following the release of results from the 2020 census. 

This week, Senate Democrats introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, aiming to allow judges greater authority in rejecting maps that unfairly give a substantial advantage to a particular political party.

Updated 5:35 p.m.