Tensions continue over new Ohio congressional map


(Barbara Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine enters the chambers of the Ohio House of Representatives before delivering his State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Governor DeWine sits on the Ohio Redistricting Committee.

Colin Moorhead II, Staff Reporter

Over the past couple of months, the Ohio legislature has grappled with the Ohio Supreme Court over the issue of new redistricting maps. The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected three different maps made by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. This commission has proposed new maps that favor Republicans over Democrats in ways unconstitutional to the Ohio constitution. In order to follow the constitution, the maps need to represent the political identity of the state, which is 54% Republican and 46% Democrat. However, the GOP majority in the Republican legislature has formed maps that give Republicans a majority of 58%. 

 Due to the increased tension and urgency for these new maps, “Ohio Redistricting Commission has slowly directed two mapmakers – University of Florida’s Michael McDonald and National Demographics Corp.’s Douglas Johnson – to draw districts for Ohio’s 99 House and 33 Senate seats.” These two individuals have produced a new map that gives Republicans a 54% advantage that adheres to the constitution. The court gave a new deadline of Monday at 11:59 p.m. to approve new maps. In previously proposed maps, the only created competitive seats were for Democrats. However, both McDonald and Johnson have proposed maps that provide competitive seats for both Republicans and Democrats. In addition to the hiring of two mediators, the process was also live-streamed for the public on the Ohio Channel. 

With the upcoming primary on May 3, the issue of the maps becomes more prevalent and urgent. According to motions filed by Ohio Democrats, “Democrats weren’t successful in convincing the Ohio Supreme Court to change the May 3 primary date.” The two Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, House Minority Leader Allison Russo and Sen. Vernon Sykes, proposed this motion in order to relieve the urgency of the new maps. However, the General Assembly is the only body capable of changing the election date. Secretary of State Frank LaRose stated that “[Democrats] apparently cannot muster enough support for legislation to move the primary election date so they’ve come here asking this court, improperly, to do it.”  

Recent court orders have issued that the “The Ohio Supreme Court won’t decide whether a Republican-crafted congressional district map violates anti-gerrymandering rules in the Ohio Constitution until after the May 3 primary.” Colin Swearingen, a John Carroll Political Science professor, says that “this means that the most recent map approved by the legislature will be used for the primary election.” He added that “federal courts could come in and delay and disapprove of these new maps if they feel there was a federal issue.” In order to be considered a federal issue, there need to be attributes that go against the Civil Rights Act or U.S. Constitution. As Swearingen stated that in the case of Ohio, “it is more about partisanship and not about federal courts issues.” This means that it is unlikely that federal courts will be involved in Ohio’s redistricting issues.