In light of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Maryland, voting-rights groups have revised their lawsuit over how Ohio draws its congressional maps.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio challenged the state’s redistricting law before the Supreme Court released its decisions last week. The justices didn’t rule on the constitutionality of redistricting in either state, saying there were procedural problems and sending them back to the lower courts.
The ACLU says the high court decisions did provide “helpful guidance” to challenge Ohio’s map-making. The revised suit notes that the justices have said partisan gerrymandering is “incompatible with democratic principles.”
The suit notes that seven of Ohio’s 16 districts are drawn in highly irregular shapes, and many districts slice apart communities.
Ohio’s districts are currently drawn by the state legislature – now controlled by Republicans – every 10 years based on the U.S. Census. The current map was created by Republican state lawmakers with input from party consultants, and no Democrats, in a Columbus hotel room known as “The Bunker.” It was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in 2011.
As a result, Ohio has 12 Republican districts and just four Democratic ones, despite voting for Barack Obama in 2012 and President Trump in 2016.
In May, voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 1, a ballot issue that would change that process and encourage more bipartisan buy-in.
However, that change won’t take effect until after the next census in 2021. The lawsuit calls for changes before the 2020 election. It names Kasich, as well as Secretary of State Jon Husted, Senate president Larry Obhof, and newly-named House Speaker Ryan Smith as defendants.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio State University College Democrats, the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute and others joined the ACLU as plaintiffs. Click here to read the amended complaint.