Members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission are sworn in at the Ohio Statehouse. From left, Senate President Matt Huffman, state Auditor Keith Faber, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Sen. Vernon Sykes. Photo by Susan Tebben

BY: and Ohio Capital Journal

The ACLU has filed an expected lawsuit disputing the partisan legislative redistricting maps passed earlier this month by the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The Ohio and national chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, along with law firm Covington & Burling, LLP, announced the lawsuit Thursday afternoon, accusing the Republican majority of “disrespecting the letter and spirit of the constitutional reforms passed overwhelmingly by Ohio voters in 2015.”

The ACLU and Covington & Burling are presenting the lawsuit on behalf of the Ohio Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, unnamed individual plaintiffs and the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

The parties in the court challenge contend that the maps violate the constitution by not accounting for the “partisan balance of House and Senate districts correspond closely to the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio.”

“This is an illegal map, plain and simple,” said Robert Fram, of Covington & Burling, in a statement.

The lawsuit accuses the commission of a “brazen manipulation of district lines for extreme partisan advantage” that “doubly dishonors the honors of this state.”

“After decades of working to end partisan gerrymandering in the Buckeye State, the League of Women Voters of Ohio asks the Ohio Supreme Court to defend the rights of everyday Ohioans to have legislative districts that serve and represent them rather (than) be rigged to favor the short-sighted and selfish interests of political parties and candidates,” said Jen Miller, president of the League of Women Voters said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Senate President Matt Huffman, who presented the maps that were eventually approved by the redistricting commission on Sept. 16, said Senate Republicans “are confident the maps approved by the Redistricting Commission are constitutional and compliant.”

Redistricting Commission co-chair state Sen. Vernon Sykes, one of the two Democrats to vote against the map said he, too, believes the maps are not constitutional.

“Unfortunately, the maps adopted last week by the Republican members of the Redistricting Commission do not comply with those requirements,” he said in a statement. “They favor one political party and do not meet the litmus test of fairness and proportionality described by the Constitution.”

A spokesperson for fellow co-chair and House Speaker Bob Cupp also defended the maps.

“Lawsuits happen every time there is a new map,” said Aaron Mulvey deputy press secretary for the House GOP. “We knew this was coming, and the state will defend the constitutional maps approved by the Redistricting Commission.”

If the Ohio Supreme Court finds the maps to be unconstitutional, they would return to the commission for a second time.

The lawsuit comes as congressional redistricting is set to begin this month. If the state legislature can’t come to an agreement by Sept. 30, those maps will also go to the commission for consideration.

Republican majority gerrymanders Ohio for another four years

 

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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