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Politics

What voters saw on the 2015 ballot will be part of the case over Ohio's House and Senate maps

Karen Kasler
/
The Ohio Constitution, on display at the Ohio Statehouse.

The maps for Ohio House and Senate districts were approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission in September on a party line vote of 5-2. Those maps favor Republicans in 62 House districts and Democrats in 37 House districts. In the Senate, Republicans are likely to win 23 out of 33 seats, leaving 10 for Democrats.

Those are veto-proof supermajorities, and are the same numbers that exist in the Ohio House and Senate right now.

The maps were the first drawn under a new process overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2015.

Ohio Constitution expert and Cleveland State University-Marshall College of Law professor Steven Steinglass notes the justices will consider the ballot language that voters saw in 2015, which said it would “create a fair, bipartisan, and transparent redistricting process.”

“At the end of the day, when voters speak, they speak by voting on the amendment. In this case, they approved it," Steinglass said in an interview for "The State of Ohio". "And I would expect that a court would give great deference to the voters where they defined ambiguity in the constitutional amendment."

While opponents of the Republican-drawn and approved maps say the maps don’t track with voter preferences, supporters of the maps say those are “aspirational standards”.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) argue the language is unclear about calculating voter preferences, and that it acknowledges the commission might not reach the stated goals by stating that the Redistricting Commission "shall attempt to draw a General Assembly district plan that meets all these standards".

"The argument has been made that the “shall attempt” means that the whole matter is not really a requirement, that it's really aspirational," Steinglass said. "I think the Soviet Constitution is aspirational. I think the Ohio Constitution is enforceable. And the fact that the words 'shall attempt' are there doesn't simply create a pass."

The other three Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission - Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor Keith Faber and Secretary of State Frank LaRose - have filed their own brief in the case. it centers on their attempts to try to compromise and deliver a 10-year map, which needed Democratic support to pass. But they say when it was clear that wasn't going to happen, they approved the maps, which they say doesn't make them unconstitutional.

Three separate lawsuits have been filed over the Ohio House and Senate maps. All three will be argued before the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The arguments will be streamed live on the Ohio Channel. The court's session gets underway at 9am, and the redistricting cases are the last three of the five cases on the docket that morning.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.