Ohio Supreme Court takes up legislative redistricting this week

By: - December 7, 2021 12:35 am

Courtesy of the Ohio Supreme Court

Organizations are preparing their arguments against legislative redistricting maps for an Ohio Supreme Court hearing Wednesday.

The state’s highest court is reviewing three cases challenging the legislative maps approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission in September.

All of the lawsuits question the constitutionality of the maps, especially provisions of the constitution that directed the commission not to draw maps that favor or disfavor one political party over another, and ensuring compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments from attorneys on all three cases, one from the League of Women Voters, another from a group of private citizens in Ohio and a third from the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, at once on Wednesday.

Attorneys representing the Ohio Organizing Collaborative held a press conference Monday to discuss the upcoming court hearing, which the hope will lead to an invalidation of the approved maps.

“We are hopeful and confident that … the people’s will is actually given force in this case,” said Alicia Bannon, a representing attorney for the OOC in the case, and also managing director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Bannon said the justices will hear the errors in the legislative maps, which she said “entrench a veto-proof supermajority,” and the redistricting process, which all parties have claim was not accountable or transparent.

Fellow representing attorney Patrick Yingling, of law firm Reed Smith, said it’s unlikely the case will be ruled upon in the near future. The Ohio Supreme Court typically takes weeks to months to issue rulings after oral arguments.

Though the OOC hasn’t filed a case against the congressional map unlike the League of Women Voters, the National Redistricting Action Fund and two Youngstown residents, Bannon said the current suits “raise very strong claims” and show further evidence that partisanship “infected the process.”

“We think that those claims are important and viable, and underscore the importance of the Ohio Supreme Court stepping in and ensuring that the people’s voice is heard,” Bannon said.

GOP members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission have denied that they violated the constitution and argue the maps should stand, despite comments from Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose expressing disappointment in how the process went and the stalemate that led to the midnight partisan vote that approved the proposed map.

A recent ruling by the supreme court said the Ohio Redistricting Commission and DeWine shouldn’t be named in the NRAF’s lawsuit against the congressional map, after the governor and other ORC members requested dismissal in the case.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor Keith Faber, state Sen. Vernon Sykes, House Minority Leaders Emilia Sykes, Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp were all dismissed as well in their capacity as commission members, but LaRose, Cupp and Huffman were all kept on the lawsuit in their official capacities as legislative and state leaders.

The supreme court has not scheduled oral arguments for the congressional lawsuits, but has set a schedule for documents in the case to be filed by the end of December.



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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.