By Marc Kovac
More than 30 people, including former lawmakers, have filed suit against Gov. John Kasich and the state apportionment board, hoping to overturn legislative district lines finalized by Republicans in late September.
The group is pushing for the Ohio Supreme Court to draw new lines itself, hire someone else to complete the process or force the Republican-controlled board to draw new lines that better meet the requirements of the state constitution, Democratic leaders at the Statehouse said.
“Republicans violated the Ohio Constitution by ignoring restrictions on splitting apart communities and instead used criteria designed to maximize their political advantage and campaign cash,” Armond Budish, a Democrat from the Cleveland area and the lone member of his party who served on the apportionment board, said.
He added, “I believe the court can have the new maps prepared in relatively short order if they act quickly.”
Kasich’s office declined comment on the specifics of the filing Wednesday.
“While we are confident that the districts are constitutional, we do not comment on litigation,” Rob Nichols, the governor’s spokesman, said.
The lawsuit names Kasich, Secretary of State Jon Husted, state Auditor Dave Yost and Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus.
The reapportionment process is completed every 10 years, after new Census statistics pinpoint population changes. The new boundaries, finalized in late September, placed 12 incumbents in overlapping districts and doubled the number of majority-minority areas, where black voters represent more than half of the population.
The joint secretaries of the apportionment board said at the time the map was approved that “significant population shifts,” not partisan considerations, shaped how the new districts were drawn.
Republicans said the new maps are constitutional.
Mike Dittoe, spokesman for the Ohio House’s Republican Caucus, called the lawsuit “yet another in a series of unbelievably disappointing attempts by House and Senate Democrats to throw the 2012 elections into legal chaos. Make no mistake: This is nothing more than an attempt by the Democrats to have federal judges draw Ohio’s legislative districts.”
“The terms of the state legislative map are set forth in the Constitution of Ohio and the federal Voting Rights Act, and this map strictly complies in all regards with those requirements,” Dittoe said. “We are confident that the diligent work of the members of the apportionment board will be upheld by the courts.”
But opponents allege the process was unconstitutional, completed by Republicans behind closed doors and resulted in districts that favor GOP lawmakers.
Budish and Capri Cafaro, D-32nd, Senate minority leader, said Wednesday that “political indices and campaign contributions” were driving factors, breaking up communities of common interest and resulting in 51 counties, 108 townships, 55 cities and 41 wards unnecessarily split.
“These state legislative district lines show a blatant disregard for the Ohio Constitution,” Cafaro said.