Ohio’s Redistricting Process Has Been a Roller Coaster

In 2018, Ohio voters thought they were doing a good thing by reforming their state’s redistribution. It turns out they created a messy process that left their convention card as messy as ever.

Nathaniel Rakich: Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park claims to be the roller coaster capital of the world. But none of his journeys have had as many ups and downs as the state’s redistribution process.

Back in 2018, Ohio voters said goodbye constitutional amendment to reform redistribution in the state and make it harder to do gerrymander. But when the new law was put to the test last year, it was an utter disaster. And the new convention card that has emerged is as rigged as ever.

Under the new rules, the Ohio legislature had until Sept. 30 to pass a new congressional card with bipartisan support. They didn’t. So the job went to the new bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission, which had until October 31 to pass a card. They didn’t either. So the process went return to the state parliament, which this time was allowed to adopt a new map along strict party lines.

And — surprise, surprise — the Republicans, who control the Legislature, pushed through a card that gave their party a major advantage. According to a metric used to quantify gerrymandering called the efficiency gap, this card is expected to produce 16 percent more seats for the GOP than a perfectly fair card. Some “reform”, right?

But that wasn’t the end of the drama. Democrats sued the map, arguing it was unconstitutional partisan Gerrymander. And in January, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed! in one 4-3 decision including the court’s Republican chief justice, the court found that the GOP would likely win 75 to 80 percent of Ohio’s congressional seats under the map, although the party, quote, “generally does not raise more than 55 percent of the statewide popular vote.” The decision goes on to say, quote: “By any reasonable standard, this skewed result just doesn’t add up.”

The ruling invalidated the rigged card and gave lawmakers 30 days to draw a new one. But guess what? They didn’t. Indeed, she not even tried, and concluded that it would be impossible to round up the required votes. So the job fell back to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, and in early March they finally passed a new map. All’s well that ends well, right?

Not correct! The new map was scarcely prettier than the one that had been struck down. It still gave Republicans 75 to 80 percent of the congressional seats in Ohio. And it still had a 16 percent efficiency gap to the GOP. So it seemed inevitable that the Ohio Supreme Court would scrap that card as well.

But weeks went by without a word from the court. Then, on March 18, it happened: Because the card was new, the plaintiffs would have to file a lawsuit new lawsuit also. Just six weeks until the Ohio primary, Democrats quickly filed a new lawsuit, but it was too late. The court announced that it would not decide on the new case until after the primary, anything but ensuring the card would be used at the 2022 midterm. Much like Michigan did with the state of Ohio last soccer gameOhio Republicans managed to let the clock run out.

Regardless of what the court ultimately decides, however, the card can be used for a maximum of two election cycles because it passed with no Democratic votes — another quirk of the state’s new New District law. So we have to do it again in 2025. I hope you like Roller Coasters Ohio because this one isn’t over yet. AHHHHHH!

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