Ohio voters made their voices heard loud and clear in 2018 when they were permitted to vote on the state's notorious gerrymandering and pass a constitutional amendment getting rid-- at least partially-- of egregious partisan redistricting. Question 1 passed-- and it wasn't close:
Yes- 1,178,468 (74.9%)
No- 395,088 (25.1%)
The amendment took effect 2 weeks ago-- and, of course, the Ohio Republican Party immediately began cheating. Today, the state Supreme Court struck down the congressional district map, saying Republicans violated the Ohio Constitution by drawing districts that favored GOP candidates. "Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor was, once again, a key vote in the 4-3 decision to reject the map, which could have given Republicans as much as a 12-3 advantage in a state that voted for President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, twice... 'When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins,' wrote Justice Michael Donnelly in the court's opinion." This was the first gerrymander anywhere in the nation struck down so far this year. It probably won't be the last. Democrats were packed into a Columbus district (D+40) and a Cleveland district (D+55) to guarantee that the districts around them would be safer for Republicans. Cincinnati was cut up into several districts so that Republicans would be able to win them all, even though it is an overwhelmingly Democratic city. And Marcy Kaptur's Toledo-based district suddenly went from a D+9 to an R+8. All of these blatant manipulations angered the judges-- other than 3 ridiculous partisan hacks who don't belong on any court anywhere-- who threw the maps out.
Now, Ohio lawmakers will be sent back to the drawing board to craft a new map within 30 days. If they can't reach a solution, the Ohio Redistricting Commission-- a panel of statewide elected officials and state lawmakers-- will have 30 days to do so. Mapmakers face a tight turnaround because candidates must file paperwork to run by March 4.
Those who pushed for redistricting reform cheered the decision as a victory for democracy. The decision came just two days after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down state House and Senate maps for partisan gerrymandering.
"Once again, Ohio's high court steps in to defend the Ohio Constitution, our representative democracy, and the right of every Ohio to have fair districts," said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. "We call on the Ohio General Assembly to finally put voters first, rather than their short-sighted and selfish political interests."
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Republican lawmakers gerrymandered a map that favored GOP candidates over Democratic ones. Legislators also split Hamilton, Cuyahoga and Summit counties unnecessarily, the court concluded.
“The General Assembly produced a plan that is infused with undue partisan bias and that is incomprehensibly more extremely biased than the 2011 plan that it replaced,” Donnelly wrote.
The court concluded that small tweaks to the map wouldn’t suffice – an overhaul was needed to correct it.
“This plan defies correction on a simple district-by-district basis,” Donnelly wrote. “We, therefore, see no recourse but to invalidate the entire congressional-district plan.”
Expert testimony provided as part of the lawsuits revealed that Republican mapmakers packed and cracked Democratic voters in Ohio’s largest cities to create districts that were safer for GOP candidates, Donnelly said.
Morgan Harper is the progressive candidate running for the open Ohio Senate seat in a sea of establishment conservatives from both parties. "Todays ruling was important," she told me earlier, "but we can’t count on the courts alone. Especially when the US Supreme Court and state supreme courts around the country have been packed by the very same Republican legislators who are trying to rig elections in their favor. We need to unpack the courts through court expansion and reform, and we must pass federal voting rights legislation. And we need to eliminate the filibuster before we can do any of it. Make no mistake: Our democracy is in peril. That’s why I’m running for Senate. I understand what’s at stake and I’ll never side with Republicans over protecting our fundamental rights."