The continuing saga of Ohio’s redistricting. It is literally a mess. There are several updates including General Assembly maps, the Ohio Supreme Court Contempt of Court, the Federal Court hearing that is currently ongoing and the May 3rd Primary Election. The Ohio Republican Party has made a mockery out of the redistricting process from the start by having no intent of agreeing to any constitutional maps that a majority of Ohio voters overwhelmingly demanded twice. Speaker Bob Cupp – a former Ohio Supreme Court justice – has continually shown his contempt not only for the court and his former colleagues on the court, but also for Ohio voters.
General Assembly Maps Update:
The Ohio Supreme Court suggested that the Ohio Redistricting Commission hire independent mapmakers to remake the state House and Senate maps for the fourth time – so they did. The republican members suggested one and the Democratic members suggested one – both were hired at $450/hour plus expenses. They started their work – transparently in the public eye with several cameras providing public viewing – this past Thursday, Friday, over the weekend and submitted their two maps to the commission for review by the 1030pm Monday, March 28th, night deadline the commission gave them since the commission was required to have maps submitted to the court by midnight Monday. The republican majority commission members – consisting of Governor Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor Keith Faber, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman – immediately voted to reject the independent mapmakers maps. Thus, the time and money spent on the independent mapmakers was all for naught indicating, once again, that the republican commission members had no intent of agreeing to any independently drawn map. Then Cupp provided maps that had been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court to be submitted to the whole commission to a vote to resubmit to the Ohio Supreme Court with a few tweaks – which are still unconstitutional. Once again, the maps that Cupp provided to the commission to vote on were only seen by the five republican commission members right before they were approved by four republican members. This latest maneuver by Cupp passed 4-3 with DeWine, LaRose, Cupp, Huffman voting yes and Faber voting no with the two Democrats Senator Dr. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Allison Russo. Cupp stated the maps were drawn Monday afternoon by republican staff members and were the best that could be done under the tight timeline…not that they have been dragging their feet to force the court into accepting unconstitutional maps to meet voting deadlines. So the Ohio Supreme Court now has the fourth round of state House and Senate maps…maps that are basically similar to the third round of maps that were rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court in mid-February. The court will, once again, review whether these ‘new’ maps abide by the voter-approved changes to the Ohio Constitution to curb partisan gerrymandering. With this ‘new’ fourth map, Erie County will be split into two House districts.
Ohio Supreme Court Contempt of Court Update:
Due to the political maneuver by Speaker Cupp, the ACLU, A. Philip Randolph Institute, League of Women Voters of Ohio and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee have called on the Ohio Supreme Court to start contempt of court proceedings against the republican commission members for “bait and switch” tactics. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has issued an order requiring all members of the commission to submit why they should not be held in contempt for the legislative maps they passed on Monday night by Monday, April 4, 2022, at 9:00am.
Federal Court Lawsuit Update:
The federal lawsuit filed by republican operatives is/was scheduled for today, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, at 9:00am. The lawsuit is asking the court to force Ohio to accept the third set of unconstitutional legislative state House and Senate maps rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court back in mid-February – which are now the reconstituted fourth set of ‘new’ maps that Cupp pushed through on the commission Monday night. Amanda Grandjean, a member of LaRose’s office staff, testified that she has “grave concerns” to hold a May 3rd primary including General Assembly candidates. In addition, Grandjean says she “cannot say that every single board of elections would be prepared” if the three-judge panel directs the Secretary of State office to use the third set of maps that were rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court for the May 3rd primary. Grandjean said 74 days would be the shortest turnaround to prepare for a primary – May 20th deadline for an August 2nd primary – LaRose stated August 2 is the latest date that Ohio could hold a primary election. If Ohio ends up holding two primaries, Ohio taxpayers will be shelling out at least $20 million. There were several other people called to testify – basically all stating the third set of maps – which have already been rejected by Ohio Supreme Court – would negatively affect voters since they do not meet Ohio’s Constitution, the fourth set of ‘new’ maps aren’t really all that different from the third set rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court, the independent mapmakers maps are more proportional. An option to have the independent mapmakers be appointed as special masters to oversee new maps drawn was also discussed. Senator Dr. Sykes and Minority Leader Russo asked for August 2, 2022, as a unified primary date with April 20, 2022, as the last date to have constitutional maps. They also asked the court to consider procedures for either a special master or to pick another plan, suggesting one of the independent mapmakers’ maps as a better option. There was NO DECISION today on the preliminary injunction to impose the third set of maps that were rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court back in mid-February.
Ohio’s Primary Election Update:
In the mean time, LaRose has directed county boards of elections to continue to march towards the May 3rd Primary – leaving off the names of state House and state Senate and State Party Committee Man and Woman candidates. However. The new set of ballots – this is the second set of ballots that county boards have setup – now includes congressional candidates…which the congressional map case is pending in a U.S. District Court in front of a three-judge panel – the case has been deferred/on hold until the Ohio Supreme Court had an opportunity to rule on the congressional map lawsuits which it did: The Ohio Supreme Court stated that parties have 25 days to submit evidence, then 10 days later to submit a brief, then respondents have 20 days to file their brief and petitioners have 7 days to send a reply brief – if you’re adding the days up…it adds up to 62 days. So…according to this timeframe, the congressional districts will not be known in time for the May 3rd primary. But…that is not stopping LaRose from issuing directives that have boards of elections including congressional candidates for unconstitutional districts that have been rejected as unconstitutional twice by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In the mean time, the Ohio Republican Party posted on Twitter today that Democrats were to blame for the ‘snake-on-the-lake’ configuration. We all know and recall that the last redistricting in 2010 was crafted by Ohio Republicans – led by Speaker John Boehner – huddled in a hotel room in Columbus drawing the worse gerrymandered districts in Ohio’s history. This is an outright lie and indicates how low the republicans will go to gaslight, lie and cheat to suppress Ohioans votes. They have made a mockery out of the redistricting process from the start by having no intent of agreeing to any constitutional maps that a majority of Ohio voters overwhelmingly demanded twice.