Democrats should challenge legality of GOP district maps

When 25 grassroots organiza- tions in the state charge that Republicans have used their majority in the General Assembly to ensure election victories for the next decade through the creation of favorable congressional and legislative districts, the people of Ohio have a right to an impartial ruling. Hence, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the districts created by the GOP is in order.

Democrats who stand to be the minority party in General Assembly and occupy only four of the 16 congressional seats for the foreseeable future should force the GOP-controlled House and Senate and the Republican-dominated apportionment board to defend their actions in court. The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, a coalition of 25 groups, would be a natural ally seeing as how it has strongly criticized the new congressional and state legislative district maps.

According to the group’s analysis of what the Republicans have done, 11 of the 16 congressional districts would be solidly in the GOP column, four would be strongly Democratic, and one would be competitive. As for the state legislature, 51 of the 99 House districts would be solidly Republican, 10 would lean Republican, 18 would be Democratic and 20 would be competitive. In the Senate, Republicans would control 17 of the 33 seats and four others would be GOP leaning. Democrats would have the rest.

Republicans insist that the maps meet all state and federal constitutional requirements and they note the Democratic Party’s winning the House in 2008 is proof that appearances of overwhelming majorities with regard to districts don’t always translate into election day victories.

But the 2008 Democratic win was a fluke, evidenced by the Republicans taking back the House this year. The Senate has been in GOP hands since 1984.

Commenting on the new map of legislative districts, Jim Slagle, manager of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Republicans will have a virtual lock on the General Assembly.

“They made it as close to a lock as they could,” Slagle said. “You’d need a real major, major shift” to Democrats beyond what was seen in 2008 when Barack Obama was on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for president.

Republicans may well be on solid ground in contending that what they have produced is constitutional, but given the clear partisan nature of the exercise, we believe a challenge is in order.

Competitive races

Our position is bolstered by the fact that there are congressional and legislative district maps drawn by individuals around the country that would result in many more competitive races.

It is noteworthy that Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, a member of the apportionment board, has renewed his call for a bipartisan entity to create the legislative districts. The current apportionment panel, which approved the new map Wednesday, is made up of five Republicans and one Democrat.

Husted had tried to push through legislation to create the bipartisan panel while he was speaker of the House, but the measure never made it out of the General Assembly.

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