OHIO — Election Day is just over a month away and Ohioans will vote with district maps that were ruled unconstitutional earlier this year.
What You Need To Know
- The congressional and legislative maps were ruled unconstitutional for unduly favoring the Republican Party
- Ohio joins Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana in voting with unconstitutional maps this November
- The majority of Ohio voters are in favor of a nonpartisan, independent redistricting commission
- There are currently five Republicans and two Democrats on the commission
- The commission has been ordered to draw new maps ahead of 2024 election
Ohio has dealt with redistricting issues for decades. Most recently, the legislative and congressional maps were ruled unconstitutional for violating at least one of the following laws: unduly favoring one political party, unnecessarily splitting up governmental entities like cities and counties and/or not reflecting the state's voter preference.
In 2015, voters approved a new criteria for how the redistricting commission would redraw Ohio's House and Senate districts, but legal analyst Rory Riley-Topping said that the criteria has caused more confusion and that voters might be the ones who finally bring change.
“We’ve seen plenty of redistricting bills introduced throughout the last few decades, but what we’ve also seen is those bills don’t pass,” said Riley-Topping. “Yes, legislators could reform this process themselves by passing legislation. I think that's less likely. I think we’re more likely to see the citizens' initiative like the last time we saw some success on this measure.”
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has been at the forefront of the issue. She voted against her party to rule the Republican-drawn congressional map unconstitutional.
Currently there are two Democrats and five Republicans on the redistricting commission.
Justice O'Connor will retire at the end of the year, due to age limit stipulations, but she said she will work with groups to get signatures requesting an independent, nonpartisan commission.
“Let's try having ordinary, sensible people who are not driven by politics but rather by what’s fair ... fair representation and justice,” said O’Connor during her final address at the Annual State of the Judiciary.
O'Connor is not alone in the request.
In an exclusive Spectrum News/Siena College Research Institute poll of likely Ohio voters, 56% of respondents were in favor of creating an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission. The poll was conducted Sept. 18-22, and has a 4.4% margin-of-error.
If an independent commission were to be created, Ohio would join eight other states that have them, including California and Arizona. But Riley-Topping said that those commissions have also had problems and that it will take a national group effort to rework how the country draws up maps.
“Even though eight states have independent commissions, there’s not one example that we can really point to that tells us what works and is truly independent, so those conversations need to be ongoing,” said Riley-Topping. “I think we could certainly improve the process by making it more independent and learning from the process of what those other eight states have done so far.”
Both the existing unconstituional congressional and legislative maps will be used in the upcoming Nov. 8 election, but the redistricting commission has been ordered to draw new maps ahead of the 2024 election.
Twenty-four states have had some form of redistricting litigation that has been filed due to the most recent census. The litigation addresses issues surrounding either racial gerrymandering or partisan gerrymandering. Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia join Ohio in going into November's elections using at least one unconstitutional map.