Ohio’s congressional districts are the fruit of the poisonous tree that is the extremely gerrymandered map drawn by Republicans in Columbus. A panel of federal judges has told the state to cut the tree down. But the GOP is bound and determined to fight the court ruling.
Judges Karen Allen Moore, Timothy Black and Michael Watson of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled last week that Ohio’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally drawn. But judges Moore, Black and Watson didn’t stop there: They ordered a new map for the 2020 election.
However, Republican Attorney General David Yost isn’t about to allow a federal court to dismantle the 12-4 Republican advantage in the congressional delegation before next year’s crucial presidential election.
Yost, a former state auditor, county prosecutor and journalist, said the ruling has no constitutional basis and that he intends to seek a stay and appeal the decision. With Republicans in control of the governor’s office, all other statewide executive offices and the Ohio House and Senate, an appeal of the 6th Circuit Court’s ruling is a foregone conclusion.
The GOP isn’t interested in fairness. It just wants to hold on to its unjustifiable eight-seat advantage in the delegation.
In May 2018, more than 1 million Ohioans went to the polls and approved a constitutional amendment to redraw Ohio’s congressional map. As we said at the time, the message from the voters was clear: The current districts are an abomination.
Ohio has long been defined by political balance between the major parties, which is why having 12 Republicans and only 4 Democrats represents the worst of partisan politics.
It is noteworthy that the mapmakers met in secret in 2011, a year after the 2010 national population census was conducted, to manipulate the boundaries to pack Democrats into just four congressional districts.
The result of Republican Party’s shenanigans has been evident in the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 congressional elections.
Now, Attorney General Yost wants the fruit of the poisonous tree to be fed to the voters of Ohio again in 2020.
However, the three judges of the appeals court – two were nominated by Democratic presidents and one by a Republican president – have ordered a proposed new map by June 20.
FAIRNESS MISSING ON MAP
One of the pillars of democracy is fairness, which the current congressional district map drawn by Republicans does not provide.
As judges Moore, Black and Watson noted in their 301-page ruling, “Democratic candidates must run a significantly longer distance to get to the same finish line.”
The fact that some boundaries stretch 100 miles is proof of GOP political immorality.
The constitutional amendment approved last year establishes a process for drawing congressional boundaries that is founded on political bipartisanship, compromise and, most of all, transparency.
No longer will one party be able to undermine democracy the way the Republicans did in 2011.
Although the amendment envisioned the new congressional boundaries being drawn after the 2020 national census, we strongly supported a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the current map.
The suit was filed in federal court by the following plaintiffs: Ohio League of Women Voters, the Ohio Chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute and one Democratic voter in each of the state’s 16 congressional districts.
The lead attorney is Freda J. Levenson, legal director of the ACLU Ohio.
“The fundamental thing here to understand is that what we are challenging in Ohio is one of the most egregiously gerrymandered maps in history,” Levenson said. “This map was designed to generate 75 percent Republican seats in Ohio regardless of how Ohio people voted.”
The three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed – even as Republicans continue their fight to block any new map before the 2020 election.
The ruling is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is already considering what could prove to be a major gerrymandering case, involving challenges to congressional maps in North Carolina, drawn by Republicans, and Maryland, created by Democrats.
The people of the predominantly Democratic Mahoning Valley have two congressional districts that aptly illustrate what the Republicans cooked up eight years ago: The 13th, represented by Democrat Tim Ryan of Howland; the 6th, represented by Republican Bill Johnson.
The 13th corrals Democrats from five counties; the 6th has Republicans rounded up from 16 counties.
It’s no wonder GOP mapmakers drew the lines in secret. They would not have withstood the intensity of the public spotlight and press scrutiny.