Groups Challenge Newly Passed Ohio Congressional Map as Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymandering
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The ACLU of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Covington & Burling LLP filed a lawsuit today challenging Senate Bill 258, which establishes new congressional districts for Ohio, giving Republicans an unconstitutional partisan advantage. This proposal was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine on November 20.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and several individuals.
Earlier this month, the Ohio General Assembly voted to enact the map along strict party lines, with nearly all Republicans, but no Democrat, voting in favor. The enacted plan is heavily skewed to favor the Republican Party; it awards Republicans 67%-80% of Ohio’s congressional seats, although the party receives only 55% of Ohioans’ votes. Because this proposal received no support from the minority party, it will only be in place for four years, according to the terms of Article XIX, Section 1, of the Ohio Constitution.
This is the second Ohio redistricting lawsuit filed this year by the ACLU and plaintiffs — the first was brought in September, to challenge the state House and Senate districts, which are also severely gerrymandered. Oral arguments in that case are set for December 8.
“Our elected officials have once again flagrantly violated the will of Ohioans, who have repeatedly voted for fair districts. Judicial intervention is critical to prevent these self-serving officials from perpetuating the terrible tradition of extreme partisan gerrymandering in our state. A core principle of republican government is that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,” noted Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio. “For the second time in two months, we ask the state’s highest court to enforce the Ohio Constitution, and ensure that Ohio voters are able to have a voice in their government.”
“Here we go again,” added Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Ohio politicians are making another brazen attempt to undermine voters, who amended their state Constitution to prevent gerrymandering. Yet try as they may, politicians do not get to choose their voters — voters get to choose their politicians.”
According to the lawsuit: “The map unduly splits governmental units in the urban and suburban areas of southwestern and northeastern Ohio. In particular, the Enacted Plan splits counties and communities in Hamilton, Cuyahoga, and Summit — splits that are unnecessary for any purpose other than to minimize the efficacy of Democratic votes.”
“The newly adopted congressional map is an affront to the Ohio Constitution and our democracy. Despite demanding reforms at the ballot box in 2018, Ohio voters are facing an even more extreme gerrymander than the congressional districts that they’ve been forced to live with for the past decade,” noted Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “From start to finish, mapmakers shamefully defied voter expectations of having a transparent, bipartisan, and public process that resulted in congressional districts that serve voters — not politicians. Ohioans deserve better.”
“Gerrymandering harms all voters, especially those from minority communities. This map will not accurately reflect the people of Ohio in Congress, not by a long shot,” offered Andre Washington, president of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute. “This cycle of endless gerrymandering leads voters to believe nothing will ever change — it deters citizens from wanting to engage in the electoral process. This is our last hope for a fair map.”
“Under the enacted plan the Republicans can anticipate winning 67% to 80% of the congressional seats — even though they are only likely to obtain about 55% of the vote. The Ohio Constitution flatly prohibits that outcome,” added Robert Fram of Covington & Burling LLP.
The case, League of Women Voters of Ohio et al v. Governor DeWine, was filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.