Court made right call on redistricting

Published 1:17 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court dealt the state’s Republican Party two blows when it rejected both the general assembly and congressional redistricting maps passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine.

The maps were only good for four years, rather than the 10 typical following a U.S. Census, as they did not receive bipartisan support in their passage.

This is due to a ballot measure approved by the state’s voters in 2018, which called for an end to gerrymandering, the purposeful redrawing of districts to benefit one political party.

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Opponents of the maps charged that they were overwhelmingly slanted to favor Republicans, to the point of creating a supermajority completely out of proportion with the state’s political demographics.

Lawsuits were filed over the four-year maps and, last week, the court ruled against them, throwing them out and mandating a fix be created in 10 days.

The court’s vote was largely on party lines, with its three Democrats voting against the maps and three of its Republicans voting to keep them.

The difference was made by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, who broke with her party and rejected the redistricting.

O’Connor cited the amendment passed by voters in her questioning and the fact that the maps violated the spirit of that measure.

Now, as the state waits for a solution (assuming yet another gerrymandered map is not produced and shot down), those seeking office, as well as those running again, are at a disadvantage, not even knowing what the lines of their districts will be, or which candidates would face off in the state’s primary.

It puts the entire primary process into chaos and is a disservice to voters, who are owed a clear campaign, in which they have ample time to learn about the choices ahead of them.

For instance, in Lawrence County, voters still don’t know whether they will be voting for a race for incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, or if the county will be moved into another district. Under the rejected maps the county was shifted to the 2nd District, where incumbent Republican Brad Wenstrup would be running for re-election.

This entire situation could have been avoided had the state’s Republicans not insisted on stacking the redistricting committee heavily in favor of one party and then those members had not voted rigidly along party lines.

The slant of the maps was egregious and violated what the voters of Ohio chose in 2018 by passing the amendment. The voters demanded fairness and lawmakers refused to grant it to them.

The court was right to toss out these maps and O’Connor should be commended for putting politics aside and being the adult in the room on this.

We hope that a fair and sensible solution is worked out soon to benefit all voters. Drawing a fair map is hardly an impossible task and those in charge of redistricting need to quit being stubborn and give up on their partisan schemes.