National anti-gerrymandering group gives Ohio redistricting failing grade
Group calls Ohio’s process ‘unmitigated disaster’
The members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission are sworn in by Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday. Left to right: State Rep. Jeff LaRe, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor of State Keith Faber, DeWine, Senate Majority Floor Leader Rob McColley, House Minority Leader Allison Russo and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio. (Photo by Susan Tebben, OCJ.)
Ohio was one of seven states to receive the worst grade on its redistricting process and efforts, according to a report by the national group Common Cause.
The national group that works against gerrymandering and promote voting rights completed a report of all 50 states and profiled redistricting state-by-state with the help of a coalition of voting rights and anti-gerrymandering groups.
The reforms made in 2015 and 2018 were brought up in Ohio’s profile. In those years, the Ohio Redistricting Commission was created, and made up mostly of members of the majority party in the state, with two members of the minority party.
“This redistricting cycle in Ohio provided a textbook example of the lengths elected officials will go to prioritize partisanship over fair representation for the public,” according to the report.
The commission has adopted six versions of Statehouse maps over the last two years, with five of them having been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. The sixth version, just passed in September with a unanimous vote of the commission, has been submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, and the state supreme court for review.
It has received its first challenge, with the National Democratic Redistricting Commission and the ACLU of Ohio saying despite the bipartisan agreement, the maps still have undue partisan leans for the Republicans, district advantages that they say don’t match voting trends of the last 10 years.
The process also tasked the legislature itself with creating a new U.S. Congressional district map, but set a fail-safe if the General Assembly couldn’t come to agreement, sending the process to the commission as well.
Two different versions of the congressional map have been challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court, and both maps were ruled unconstitutional.
“Unfortunately, this cycle, the Republican majority in the legislature and the politician commission showed no interest in bipartisan cooperation and drew maps designed to maximize the number of Republican seats,” the report stated.
The group decried the fact that 2022 Ohioans “‘were forced to vote in congressional and state legislative districts that were unconstitutional.”
There were some spots of positivity, the report found. Though “the process and results were unmitigated disasters,” the changes made to the sixth Statehouse map showed the public “had some impact,” the report cited OSU professor emeritus Richard Gunther as saying. The head of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Prentiss Haney, was quoted in the report as well, saying advocacy “made a difference in ensuring that the worst maps were not passed.
The state received an “F” grade, along with Alabama, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
California and Massachusetts received the top grade, an A-minus. The states surrounding Ohio faired better, with Michigan receiving a “B,” Pennsylvania achieving a “C-plus,” and Kentucky and West Virginia both receiving “D” grades.
What Ohio’s process showed was the need for the removal of elected officials from the process, Common Cause found.
“The willingness of Ohio Republicans to ignore the rule of law this redistricting cycle provided one of the most vivid examples of the need to create a redistricting process that fully excludes self-interested elected officials,” the report stated.
The national group joined with the local chapter of Common Cause to support a new set of reforms, currently going through the process of becoming an official ballot initiative.
The newest proposed constitutional amendment would create an independent redistricting commission and a panel to choose those members. Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost approved the language for the ballot initiative after two revisions, and the Ohio Ballot Board is considering the language.
Should the board approve the measure’s language, it will then move on to a signature collection campaign to garner enough support to be put on a future Ohio ballot.
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