Federal Court Says Ohio's Congressional Map Is Unconstitutional

May 3, 2019

The U.S. District Court in Cincinnati says Ohio’s congressional district map is unconstitutional. The court is telling Ohio lawmakers to draw a constitutional map by June 14 and if that doesn’t happen, the court will appoint a special master to do it so a new map would be in place for next year’s congressional election. 

Freda Levenson with the ACLU of Ohio. The group has been fighting against the map since 2011 and filed a lawsuit over it last year.

"Every single word of this 300 page plus opinion is entirely validating," Levenson said.

Jen Miller with the Ohio League of Women Voters agreed. She wishe this ruling could have come years ago but is happy it has come in time for the 2020 election.

“What’s different is in the past year or two, there’s new legal methodologies, new statistical methodologies to prove partisan gerrymandering that courts are considering," Miller said.

In response to the ruling, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said, "Ohioans overwhelmingly approved our bipartisan effort to create a better process to draw congressional districts following the 2020 census. Make no mistake, our office will work with county boards of elections to administer fair, accurate and secure elections in 2020, pending the conclusion of the judicial process." 

Dominic Binkley, Public Information Officer for Attorney General Dave Yost, said the office plans to ask for a stay and appeal the decision.

"This decision will result in judges being involved in every redistricting map in every election," Binkley said.

Binkley said the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing this issue and will decide it before the end of its term. 

Democratic leaders of the Ohio Legislature said the state shouldn’t appeal.  House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) are urging Republican leaders of the General Assembly to comply with the court’s ruling.  

“We hope we can work together with the fairness, transparency and bipartisanship that we promised Ohioans when we asked them to vote on a congressional redistricting proposal. The voters overwhelmingly approved this measure we crafted. They want fair maps. Appealing this decision would fly in the face of the voters’ clear demands,” Yuko and Sykes said in a written statement.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper also urged majority Republican lawmakers to comply with the court’s order. “As a factual matter, this is a damning decision, confirming what we have said for a long time: through a secretive process, Ohio Republican leaders rigged elections in this state for the entire decade, depriving voters of a meaningful choice in almost every legislative election since 2011,” Pepper said.

In a written statement, Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) blasted Democrats saying, “Make no mistake, this politically-motivated lawsuit was brought for the sole purpose of helping Democratic candidates win more seats. It does so at the expense of Ohio’s voters, who would be forced to vote under three different congressional maps in four different years. That is bad policy and unfair to the people of Ohio,” Obhof said. 

Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken also took issue with the minority party in the Ohio Legislature. “When Democrats can’t win at the ballot box, they try to change the rules. This is a partisan political ploy which diminishes the rights of voters. Ohio voters have already voted on how we will draw our congressional maps which had bipartisan support.  This decision is a fundamentally political act and we look forward to this process playing out in the courts,” Timken said.