Voting rights groups sue Ohio over redistricting maps

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other voters rights groups filed a lawsuit in the...
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other voters rights groups filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court, challenging the state’s recently approved House and Senate redistricting maps.(WTVG)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 7:46 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 10:14 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX) - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other voters rights groups filed a Ohio Supreme Court lawsuit Thursday challenging the state’s recently approved House and Senate redistricting maps.

New maps are drawn from a once-in-a-decade process that determines the allocation of political power and representation at every level of government across the country for the next 10 years.

The lawsuit alleges the new maps give “extreme and unfair advantage to the Republican Party.”

The ACLU wants the state’s top court to order the Ohio Redistricting Commission to change the maps or draw new ones.

The maps were approved last week in a 5-2 vote along party lines.

“Ohio’s Redistricting Commission enacted maps that are intended to, and will, entrench a Republican veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of Ohio’s General Assembly for the next four years,” the complaint states.

ACLU of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Covington & Burling LLP filed the suit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the Ohio chapter of the African American trade union group the A. Philip Randolph Institute, as well as a group of individual Ohio voters.

The defendants are the Ohio Redistricting Commission, Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, Ohio House Speaker Robert Cupp, Ohio Sen. Vernon Sykes and Ohio House Rep. Emilia Sykes.

The suit alleges the maps were a result of “extreme partisan gerrymandering” that violate a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in 2015 to prevent politically motivated redistricting.

According to the lawsuit, Republicans over the past decade have received between 46.2% and 59.7% of the statewide vote. But the enacted map draws 67% of the House districts and 69% of the Senate districts to favor Republicans, assuring Republican veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission has five Republicans: DeWine, LaRose, Faber, Huffman and Cupp; and two Democrats: House Minority Leader Sykes and her father, state Sen. Vernon Sykes.

This is the first litigation in the country challenging a passed statewide map this cycle.

“This extreme partisan gerrymander is a flagrant violation of the Ohio Constitution. Several majority members of the Redistricting Commission candidly admitted as much, even as they voted to enact this manipulative scheme,” said Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio.

The blatant defiance of the reforms that were overwhelmingly passed by Ohio voters just six years ago is not only a violation of law, but is also a slap in the face to the people of this state. We are going to this state’s highest court to ensure that Ohio voters are able to have a voice in their government.”

In a prepared statement Thursday, Rep. Emilia Sykes said:

“Ohioans and Democrats alike wanted to see the Commission work together on a map that met the constitutional requirement for proportionality and lives up to the reforms voters passed in 2015.

“Republican members of the Commission decided the will of the people was not important to them and instead passed a partisan four-year map. Now the issue is in the hands of the courts. We didn’t have to be here.”

FOX19 NOW reached out to the Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission for comment.

“Lawsuits happen every time there is a new map. We knew this was coming, and the state will defend the constitutional maps approved by the Redistricting Commission,” said a spokesman for Cupp, Aaron Mulvey.

Spokesmen and women for DeWine, LaRose and Faber all declined comment.

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