Ohio House Speaker calls redistricting deadline a ‘myth’

U.S. Supreme Court appeal ‘a very real option’

By: - August 18, 2022 3:55 am

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima. Photo courtesy The Ohio Channel.

The Ohio House Speaker wrote a letter to members of his party claiming “intentional misinformation” and the “myth” of a deadline for congressional redistricting, and signaling an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Ohio Supreme Court turned down the most recent drafts of congressional district lines in the state, saying the partisan breakdown unduly favored Republicans and didn’t match the breakdowns of election results in the state.

In the court decision, the court majority ruled that “within 30 days, the General Assembly must pass a plan that complies with the Constitution.”

Speaker Bob Cupp, however, said in his letter to fellow Republicans that “out-of-state activists have peddled the myth” of a deadline this week.

“It is false, has zero basis in fact, and either shows a lack of understanding of our legal system, or it is an attempt to intentionally sow confusion over the 2022 elections,” Cupp said in the letter, provided to media by a spokesperson.

Cupp, a former state supreme court justice, then argues a deadline for new congressional maps “does not commence until all appeals are final,” including a deadline for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of 90 days from the date of the state supreme court decision.

Cupp did not explicitly say the legislative leaders would be appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, but said the General Assembly’s 30-day clock wouldn’t start until after the nation’s highest court decided not to review the appeal.

When asked for clarification, a spokesperson for Cupp said a U.S. Supreme Court appeal “is a very real option that we have time to thoroughly consider.”

The final date to appeal, Cupp states based on the state supreme court’s decision date of July 19, is Oct. 17.

“So, there is no state constitutional requirement to draw new congressional districts for the 2024 election cycle before then,” Cupp wrote.

This is the third time the General Assembly has been asked to redraw congressional maps. The last time the state supreme court rejected the maps, the General Assembly didn’t take action, and the effort moved, as was ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court, to the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

No mention of U.S. Supreme Court appeal was brought up at that time, despite the fact that Cupp was House Speaker and co-chair of the ORC.

After being rejected in January, new congressional maps were passed by the ORC in March.

Cupp’s compatriot in the other legislative chamber, Senate President Matt Huffman, commented to media, saying no action is expected from the Ohio Senate on congressional maps.

A spokesperson for Huffman did not comment other than to confirm the accuracy of a Dispatch story in which Huffman said the Ohio Supreme Court does not have the power to dictate the Ohio legislature’s duty in redistricting. He also said the U.S. Supreme Court could definitively answer the question of redistricting authority in Ohio.

The ACLU of Ohio, which has been a party in several of the legal challenges to congressional and legislative redistricting, called Cupp’s legal argument a “gambit” at the “11th hour.”

Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said the Ohio Supreme Court “ordered the legislature, in no uncertain terms, to draw a map by tomorrow.”

Because the OSC’s order to draw a new map ruled purely on matters of Ohio law, it is not appealable in federal court,” said Levenson. “So there is no legitimate way to try to extend the Ohio Supreme Court’s deadline.”

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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.