Redistricting fights in Ohio begin, this time with an open records request

By: - July 19, 2021 12:30 am

Photo by Getty Images.

The redistricting process still has a long way to go, but a battle to keep track of public records during the process has already begun in a court case between the ACLU and the Ohio House of Representatives.

The ACLU asked the Ohio Supreme Court to compel employees within the Ohio House and the offices of six representatives, including House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, to provide public records related to redistricting. The legal advocacy group said the records were requested five months ago, and certain elements had been rejected as “overly broad.”

“Since then, however, (legal counsel in the office of the House Speaker) has flouted the clearly defined duty to provide responsive records in a timely manner pursuant to Ohio public records law, including by withholding certain records without sufficient justification and by failing to provide others altogether,” the ACLU said in a court filing.

According to emails provided as part of the court case, J. Collin Marozzi, policy strategist for the ACLU of Ohio, asked for records relating to appointments and meetings of the Ohio Redistricting Commission; communications between the House offices and the U.S. Census Bureau; and records proving the Ohio General Assembly and the redistricting commission received 2020 Census data.

The group also asked for “information that could be used for the purposes of redistricting,” including precinct names and lines, population shifts and voting districts for previous elections.

The House official handling the public records request rejected requests for communication with “any consultant, firm, or vendor for the purposes of redistricting,” current or former members of Ohio’s Congressional delegation related to redistricting, and communication with the Republican and Democratic National committees and state parties on the subject of redistricting.

Josh Sabo, deputy legal counsel with the office of the House Speaker, said the requests were denied “because they are overly broad and ambiguous and do not provide enough information to allow us to identify responsive records based on the manner in which the office organizes and accesses the records it keeps,” according to court documents.

But Marozzi said the goal posts moved on the request, and the requests were rejected even after he provided narrowed requests and search terms related to the information he sought.

“Moreover … Marozzi has twice engaged with (Sabo) in good faith in an attempt to limit the scope of his requests, and at each turn, (Sabo) has shifted (his) demands,” the complaint to the court stated.

The Ohio Supreme Court sent the case to mediation rather than making a formal ruling in the case.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

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 (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.