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Government/Politics

Leader Who Proposed New Ohio House And Senate Maps Not Surprised By Lawsuit

Huffman gaggle 9-21-21.jpg
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) speaks to reporters after session on September 22, 2021.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) proposes the maps, which he said were the only ones introduced that were constitutional.

Voting rights groups are suing over the state House and Senate district maps approved on a party line vote by the Ohio Redistricting Commission last week. But the lawsuit is no surprise to the Republican leader who proposed the maps.

Republicans admitted that two-thirds of House and Senate districts in the new maps would favor the GOP. And they said in a statement that follows the 2015 voter approved constitutional directive that the party breakdown correspond closely with Ohio voter preferences – though as an example Donald Trump won with a little over half the Ohio vote in both 2016 and 2020.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio is suing with the help of the ACLU of Ohio. The lawsuit, filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, claims the Republicans’ “brazen manipulation of district lines” disregards the party split of Ohio voters in the last decade of elections and defies the 2015 constitutional amendment that sought to end extreme partisan gerrymandering.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said he expected that.

“I think those groups, you could probably give them the pen and let them draw the map and they would still file a lawsuit. So this is just part of the cycle of life," Huffman said.

Huffman’s spokesman said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed: “We are confident the maps approved by the Redistricting Commission are constitutional and compliant.”

Huffman had said in defense of the maps that they're not gerrymandered, and that Ohioans who voted overwhelmingly to change the process in 2015 can "make their own decisions", and if they don't like the process, "they can go to the ballot and try to change the process."

Huffman and Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) had inserted into the state budget a provision that would have allowed them to hire outside counsel in the event that the maps for the Ohio House and Senate or for Congress are challenged. That provision was vetoed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Legal challenges to the maps may have been predicted, but the rulings aren't always what's expected. In 2011, the maps were challenged. And while they were upheld, Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor voted against those maps, along with fellow Republican Paul Pfeifer and the only Democrat on the court at the time, Yvette McGee-Brown. Now, three of the seven justices are Democrats, and O’Connor is still chief justice.

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