Legislature on the clock to redraw Ohio’s unconstitutional Congressional district map

By: - January 28, 2022 3:40 am

State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, presents congressional redistricting maps to the House Government Oversight Committee on November 17. (Photo: Susan Tebben, OCJ)

As the state awaits the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision on the second round of legislative maps, the state legislature is on a timeline to revise the invalid congressional map as well.

The state’s high court decided in a 4-3 decision on Jan. 13 that a congressional map passed by the General Assembly was not valid, in the same way they’d ruled the legislative maps were invalid: undue partisanship.

While in some cases, courts can rule that certain parts of a redistricting plan have “isolated defects,” the state supreme court said in its majority opinion that there were systemic flaws “such that constitutional defects in the drawing of some district boundaries have a consequential effect on the district boundaries of other contiguous districts,” so no one solution would fix the problems.

“In this case, the partisan gerrymandering used to generate the 2021 congressional-district plan, through undue party favoritism and/or undue governmental-unit splits, extends from one end of the state to the other,” Justice Michael Donnelly wrote for the majority.

In rejecting the map on Jan. 13, the court set a 30-day deadline for the state legislature to come up with a different plan, one that complied with all the of the constitutional rules, including Section 6, which prohibits the state congressional (and legislative) map from unduly favoring one political party over another.

Multiple members of the state legislature told the OCJ they haven’t received any directives or been in discussion with other legislators about when or if the General Assembly will discuss redistricting before the 30-day deadline expires.

Lima Republican Senate President Matt Huffman told the Statehouse News Bureau the legislature will potentially start taking action on a new Congressional map the week of Feb. 7.

Because congressional redistricting is done legislatively, the new revisions should come through a bill, just as they did previously through Senate Bill 258.

Eyes are on Senate Bill 286 as the legislation to carry new district maps, though it is currently merely an “intent” bill, meaning the only language included in it as of its Wednesday introduction states the general assembly “intends to enact legislation establishing revised congressional district boundaries for the state based on the 2020 decennial census.”

State Sen. Rob McColley is the sponsor of the bill, just as he was for SB 258, leading the charge for GOP congressional maps to pass through the GA.

If the legislature misses the 30-day deadline, for which there is precedent from the previous attempt at congressional plans, the process goes back to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The ORC just finished rewriting the legislative district maps, which are awaiting supreme court review.

In the case of the legislative maps, objections were filed by the three groups who sued to invalidate the original redistricting plan, and the court set a Friday deadline of noon for ORC members to file their responses.

Amid the legal battle, House Minority Leader Allison Russo says Attorney General Dave Yost has blocked her from legal representation in the case.

As of Thursday afternoon, no responses had been filed with the court.

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

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