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Wed. 11:50 a.m.: Ohio Supreme Court to rule again on state legislative maps

The Ohio Supreme Court, which threw out Republican-drawn state legislative maps because of gerrymandering, will decide if the updated maps pass constitutional muster.

The organizations and individuals who filed the first successful lawsuit submitted a second objection just shortly before the midnight Tuesday deadline to appeal new districts approved Saturday by the Ohio Redistricting Commission along political partisan lines.

Among those filing appeals are the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the Ohio chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Redistricting Action Fund.

“We are extremely disappointed, but not surprised, by the new gerrymandered legislative maps proposed by our legislators,” said Prentiss Haney, co-executive director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, which is headquartered in Youngstown. “Yet again, they have failed the people of Ohio, who have demanded a fair, constitutional and representative map-making process for years now.”

The court gave the commission until noon Friday to respond to the lawsuits.

Those filing appeals wrote: “This court gave the Ohio Redistricting Commission a clear set of instructions for how to draw a General Assembly plan that complies with (the Ohio Constitution). The commission did not follow them. The commission has again passed a plan, drawn by Republican caucus staff out of public view, on a party-line basis, that violates the Ohio Constitution in several ways.”

In a 4-3 decision, the high court ruled Jan. 12 that the Republican-drawn maps were unconstitutional as they unfairly favored that political party based on partisan statewide election results over the past decade that give GOP 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Democrats.

The rejected map gave Republicans the advantage in 65 of 99 House districts and in 23 of the 33 Senate districts, with only eight House districts and four in the Senate considered competitive in that one party had a 6 percent or less advantage over the other based on statewide voting totals.

The updated maps give Republicans a 57-42 advantage in the House and 20-13 in the Senate. That’s 57.5 percent Republican in the House and 60.6 percent in the Senate.

The objectors also said Republicans drew a dozen House districts that give Democrats a razor thin 1 percent or less advantage while all of the Republican House districts give that party at least a 4 percent advantage.

“The (Republican) map-drawers’ characterization of the map grossly overestimates the total number of Democratic-leaning districts in the revised House map,” the lawsuits state.

Republicans actually have an advantage in 62 House districts, the lawsuits state.

GOP map-makers acknowledged they stopped drawing a number of districts once they gave the opposing party that slight advantage.

The objectors wrote: “The topline numbers the commission reported are a mirage; a cheap parlor trick to distract from the revised plan’s obvious partisan bias.”

Republicans say the state constitution didnát provide requirements regarding how competitive a district must be.

The commission’s Republican members wrote in a statement after passing the maps: “Neither the constitution nor the decision of the Supreme Court requires adoption of a plan meeting strict proportionality, only that it closely corresponds with it.”

The Republicans also wrote that its maps had to comply with the rest of the constitution , including compactness and limiting the division of communities, and they succeeded in doing that.

Also, the overall 58-42 percent favoring Republicans is close to the 54-46 percent of statewide voting trends, they said.

“The commission believes that the number of Republican-leaning districts and Democratic-leaning districts closely correspond to strict proportionality, particularly in light of the distribution of voters and geography of Ohio,” they wrote. “Moreover, the final adopted General Assembly plan does not contain violations” of the Ohio Constitution.

Even if the Republican-drawn map is upheld as constitutional, it would only be in effect for four years because the two Democrats on the commission objected.

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