Ohio’s sixth and latest attempt to pass a set of district maps has just been adopted by the state redistricting commission. However, similarly to the five preceding maps, it seems this set has met the same challenges.
On Sept. 26, 2023 the Ohio Redistricting Commission passed version 6.0 of Ohio’s Legislative Districting Maps. These include maps for Ohio’s 15 seats in the House of Representatives as well as maps for the state legislature’s representatives and senators.
The last set of maps that the Supreme Court of Ohio struck down was overturned almost a year and a half ago. Since then, the commission has delayed action on new maps, citing a number of reasons including partisan disputes.
Despite ruling against the last maps which were drawn prior to the 2022 midterm elections, they remained in place for midterms. Republican lawmakers refused the Supreme Court’s order by allowing the clock to run out on the deadline to draw new ones.
The ORC voted unanimously in favor of the sixth version of maps; though the two democratic members, Nickie Antonio and Allison Russo, still find the maps to be “unfair… and gerrymandered in favor of republicans.” The pair defended their approval, explaining that this version of the maps, though not ideal, was the fairest of the options which they had seen.
While the lawsuit is asking for a repeal of the latest maps and an order for new ones to be drawn, it is uncertain whether the court will agree. When the last maps were overturned, the court sat at a 4-3 conservative majority. Since then, the assembly of lawmakers has changed significantly.
Following a nearly 7-year-long pattern, Ohio has continued a trend of favoring Conservative leadership. One of the many seats which has been replaced in the interim, was that of the Chief Justice of Ohio’s Supreme court. Previously, Republican Maureen O’Connor, who voted against the prior maps, led the bench. However, she has since stepped down and was succeeded by Sharon Kennedy of the same party.
Chief Justice Kennedy, formerly Justice Kennedy, issued a dissent in the July 2022 case against the fifth version of districting maps. She is widely expected to do the same if and when the case against the sixth set is brought forth.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been involved in every lawsuit against the previous maps throughout the past two years. They recently issued a statement on the newest maps which they find to be “so clearly in violation of the Ohio Constitution that they cannot go unchallenged.”
Another member of the group bringing the lawsuit, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, had to say “the new statehouse maps were drawn for one reason only: to make sure that sitting lawmakers continue to win re-election.”
It was found that in previous and current maps, Democratic leaning seats held a maximum of 52% advantage, whereas Republican leaning seats had a minimum of 53% advantage. Additionally, in spite of a less than 6 point difference in voters between the two parties, it was found that the maps favor Republican voters in nearly every Republican held seat.
If approved, these maps would remain in effect until the next census. They would also be the maps used in the upcoming 2024 general election.