The 6 races that could impact Ohio’s redistricting debate
A voter at the ballot maker machine during the Ohio primary election, May 3, 2022, at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)
The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
The future Ohio Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of the state’s district maps, but there are also three other races that could make or break what kind of plans are put forward.
The majority of the court has been fighting against the Ohio Redistricting Commission (ORC) for more than a year, with many citing the makeup of the court as the most important race in the state.
RELATED: Why you should be paying attention to Ohio Supreme Court races
“The results of the Supreme Court elections could make a big difference to how the future of redistricting plays out in Ohio in 2023,” said Jonathan Entin, constitutional law expert and professor at Case Western Reserve University.
If the Republicans win all three seats, then the court is likely to approve any map submitted to them by the commission. If a Democrat wins just one associate justice seat, those maps would continue to be rejected.
The three races include one chief justice position and two associates. Current sitting justices Jennifer Brunner and Sharon Kennedy are facing off for the chief position. One of these candidates will take the role of chief and the other will remain in the associate justice position. Once the chief moves into the role, the governor will get to appoint a replacement. Already, that eliminates three spots.
Two sitting justices, both Democrats, aren’t up for reelection. Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart will be up for reelection in the next election cycle. That makes five spots spoken for.
Now, where the competition comes in: the two associate justice seats. Democratic judge Marilyn Zayas is challenging current Republican Pat DeWine for his seat, while Democratic judge Terri Jamison is going up against current Republican Pat Fischer. To remain in control of the court, both Republicans need to win.
RELATED: 3 Ohio judicial candidates accused of breaking ethics code, told PAC abortion isn’t Constitutional right
But that isn’t the only way the maps will be decided.
The ORC is made up of seven spots in total. Two will always go to Republicans and two to Democrats in the Statehouse. The three remaining seats include the governor, secretary of state and auditor.
Each of the three incumbents, all Republicans, supported their maps, both the legislative and congressional sets that were struck down seven times (five for legislative, two for congressional) this year as unconstitutional and gerrymandered by the court.
The three challengers have all already vowed to stop gerrymandering. Although there are confirmed write-ins, the major party candidates include Gov. Mike DeWine facing Nan Whaley, Sec. of State Frank LaRose challenged by Chelsea Clark and Auditor Keith Faber going against Taylor Sappington.
Find out more about the candidates by clicking or tapping here.
Although there is a slim chance that Democrats will end up winning two of those seats to gain a majority, it is something disgruntled voters should think about when they hit the polls, Entin said. That doesn’t mean the lawsuits would be over, though.
“We could expect that somebody would try to challenge any new map that came out of the commission next year,” he added.
That being said, Entin states it may be harder for a bench of Republican justices to find a reason to deny maps against a Democratic majority, so long as they aren’t gerrymandered.
What is most likely to happen, and what many progressives are betting on, is that one of the Democratic candidates win a Supreme Court seat.
Want to learn the latest on where the candidates stand? OCJ/WEWS is here to help. We created a 2022 midterm elections guide, which is updated daily based on the changing candidacies.
Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.