Is there a path to securing fair legislative representation for citizens in Ohio?

Statewide redistricting maps are drawn after the official U.S. Census is complete and are generally in effect for the next decade. But that’s not what happened in this state. The Ohio Redistricting Commission recently approved four-year maps, not 10-year maps. The 5-2 vote was along party lines with the Democrats on the commission in the minority. Ohio law states that if the commission unanimously approves maps, they are in place until the next census is complete. A simple majority vote, however, means the maps only are good for four years, at which time they must be redrawn.

These are maps that determine boundaries for the new congressional and state legislative districts across Ohio. They are important because these district lines determine where we vote and how we are represented. Federal law stipulates that the districts must have nearly equal populations without discriminating on the basis of race or

ethnicity.

The commission in Ohio includes Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, state Auditor Keith Faber, two members of the House and two members of the Senate.

Before the voter-supported state commission was in place, lawmakers drew the maps. The goal behind forming the commission, through a voter-approved change to Ohio’s Constitution, was to bring equal representation without partisan gerrymandering. Voters clearly wanted to level the playing field.

But groups across Ohio are stepping forward to challenge the newly drawn maps.

Solon city officials said last week that they plan to file an objection to the redistricting plan that splits the city into two separate house districts. That means Solon will have two different representatives. Solon Mayor Edward H. Kraus said communities should be left intact.

State Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, who now represents the entire city, said this is not what Ohioans had in mind when they approved voter reform issues in 2014 and 2018 to ensure that legislative maps were fair.

As of early this week, three lawsuits were filed to stop the legislative district maps from going into effect.

Lawsuits before the Ohio Supreme Court challenging the GOP drawn district maps include the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. This lawsuit states that the maps dilute the political power of Muslims by splitting Muslim communities in several large Ohio

cities.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Ohio League of Women Voters filed a suit challenging the maps. The third suit was filed by 10 people from across Ohio who said in court documents that the maps were designed to protect “Republican performance going against the goal of partisan proportionality.”

Some Republican leaders in Ohio are saying these lawsuits were filed by far-left groups and elitists. But in our view, organizations like the League of Women Voters have consistently stood for fairness.

Experts say that the maps give Republicans 67 percent of the House district seats and 69 percent of the Senate district seats. That gives the GOP a veto-proof super majority in the General Assembly.

This is not what Ohioans want. More than 70 percent of voters in 2014 approved the constitutional amendment designed to change the way these maps are determined. The commission is ignoring the will of the people.

The impact of the lawsuits is yet to be seen. In the meantime, we ask again: Is there a path to fair representation in Ohio?

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