ACLU Files Federal Challenge to Partisan Gerrymandering in Ohio
CINCINNATI — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Ohio U.S. congressional map as unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The lawsuit seeks to replace
“Ohio’s map was manipulated to create a congressional delegation with a 12-4 Republican advantage — and to lock it in for a decade. And the map has consistently performed exactly as its architects planned,” said Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio. “The party has only received 50 to 60 percent of the statewide vote in these elections this decade. Their fixed possession of 75 percent of seats regardless of how voters vote is egregious.”
Ohio’s current congressional map was drawn by state Republicans and the national GOP after the 2010 census. According to the lawsuit, their redistricting operation was based out of a secretly rented hotel room in Columbus, tellingly referred to as “The Bunker” by the Republican operatives and officials who were involved. From there, a redrawn map emerged.
“Politicians have shamelessly and repeatedly flouted the will of voters with their partisan manipulation of the election process,” said Alora Thomas-Lundborg, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “The Ohio map was specifically drawn to create an unfair advantage to one political party — Republicans — but gerrymandering is wrong no matter what party does it. Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”
By entrenching the party in power and insulating it from meaningful accountability to the electorate, partisan gerrymandering substantially burdens voters’ fundamental rights, including their First Amendment right to associate for the advancement of political beliefs, to express political views, and to participate in the political process; their First and Fourteenth Amendment right to cast a meaningful vote; and their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection and treatment under the law. Partisan gerrymandering also far exceeds the powers left to the states to draw district lines.
The lawsuit, Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Kasich, was filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. Plaintiffs include the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and individuals from every congressional district in Ohio. Named defendants include Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Secretary of State Jon Husted, Interim Ohio House Speaker Kirk Schuring, and Senate President Larry Obhof.
Co-counsel are ACLU National, the ACLU of Ohio, and the law firm Covington and Burling.
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