Photo: Courtesy of the Ohio Supreme Court

Attorneys for League of Women Voters proposed that the commission be given the maps again, but with specific instructions to fix District 1 in Hamilton County

BY: SUSAN TEBBEN – Ohio Capital Journal

The League of Women Voters and a group of Ohioans represented by a national redistricting group have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to keep the state from using recently approved congressional maps.

“Having embarked on its latest map-drawing journey with an irredeemably broken compass, it is no surprise that the (Ohio Redistricting) Commission has once again found itself lost,” Ohioans led by the National Redistricting Action Fund stated in their court filing.

The group called the newest map – which breaks the state down into 10 Republican districts, three Democratic districts and two “tossup” districts  – “an extreme partisan outlier again,” putting the state at a “partisan advantage at odds with Ohio’s voting patterns.”

Because of this, they ask the court to strike down the Ohio Redistricting Commission’s second try at congressional districts, move the candidate filing deadline that was March 4 and “if necessary, itself adopt a constitutional plan as early as March 17.”

“At this point, the commission cannot be trusted behind the wheel,” attorneys for the group wrote.

The League of Women Voters stopped short of asking for the court to take over the process, saying “it is premature at this juncture for the court itself to implement a plan.”

Attorneys for the Ohio league proposed that the commission be given the maps again, but with specific instructions to fix two districts: District 1 in Hamilton and Warren counties and District 15, which stretches from the western and southern sides of Franklin County to the Southern half of Shelby County.

The LWV, represented by the ACLU of Ohio, also argued an alternative plan written by Harvard professor Dr. Kosuke Imai was brought up to to the commission “but was ignored.”

 A congressional redistricting plan proposed by Harvard professor Dr. Kosuke Imai. The League of Women Voters said this map was “ignored” by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, despite following constitutional redistricting requirements.

The plan had a 10-6 partisan breakdown, but was never brought up for a formal vote by the commission.

In court documents included with the LWV’s objection to the newest congressional map, Dr. Imai said his map “demonstrates that it is possible to generate a redistricting plan that is free of partisan bias and compactness problems while complying with the other redistricting criteria.

Imai was also mentioned in the legislative redistricting court battle, when attorneys said the professor conducted 5,000 simulations of Ohio districts and never came up with the same amount of GOP partisanship in any of the simulations.

Attorneys for the National Redistricting Action Fund said Ohio’s Republican caucus chose to “let the clock run out” on any efforts by the General Assembly to create a congressional plan, and were slow to act even as the ORC began its first week back after the GA made no decision.

“The General Assembly seemingly took no action to even attempt to draw a plan itself because it was unwilling to attempt to reach the bipartisan agreement that would be necessary to pass emergency legislation,” Adams’ attorneys wrote.

After the commission adopted a GOP-created map along party lines, the map challengers say Secretary of State Frank LaRose moved forward with “implementing the new gerrymandered plan,” despite the fact that it hadn’t been (and still hasn’t been) given the go-ahead by the state supreme court.

The NRAF also argues the map continues to violate the constitution, specifically the provision prohibiting the favoring or disfavoring of one political party over another.

“This disparity between statewide vote share and congressional seat share is astounding,” attorneys wrote.

Asking for the court to take over the process is not a new argument state redistricting challengers have made. Attorneys arguing against legislative maps also asked the court to take charge after three attempts by the redistricting commission.

The NRAF also asked the court to postpone “relevant election deadlines” for the May 3 primary, saying the court has “broad authority to issues orders postponing election deadlines to address harm that would occur if elections were to proceed under an unconstitutional map.”

Republican commission members have said the power to change elections lies with the General Assembly.

SUSAN TEBBEN is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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