Hours after the Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to adopt a new set of legislative maps by the Ohio Supreme Court’s February 17 deadline, a group of Republican voters filed a lawsuit in federal court. They claim that, with no new map in place, the old map adopted in 2010 is still in effect, leaving Ohio malapportioned. To remedy this, they ask a three-judge panel to adopt the second legislative plan adopted by the Commission (notwithstanding the fact that that plan was stricken by the Ohio Supreme Court as unconstitutional). We are not a party to this case, but wish to intervene to protect our clients’ rights in the ongoing redistricting process and state court litigation.
Our participation in this litigation is in support of our redistricting litigation efforts in the Ohio Supreme Court.
On February 18, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint along with a Motion for Preliminary Injunction. We filed a Motion to Intervene as Defendants on February 20, along with an Answer. We argue that the federal court’s involvement at this time is premature and unnecessary, considering the ongoing status of our Ohio Supreme Court case. The Bennett relators in our companion OSC case, the Simon parties, from a racial gerrymandering case in the Northern District of Ohio, and the minority members of the Commission also each moved to intervene on February 22. On February 23, Plaintiffs objected to the Simon parties’ Motion to Intervene. The Simon parties filed a reply an hour later. The Court ordered a status conference for the afternoon of Friday, February 25. On February 24 we filed a Motion to Stay pending the outcome of the state redistricting process. On February 28, we filed a motion to continue the status conference from March 7 until March 14, given the ongoing process in the Ohio Supreme Court. On March 4, the Court entered an order granting our motion to intervene and postponing the next status conference until March 14.
On March 17, Plaintiffs filed an emergency motion to vacate the stay and to appoint a three judge panel. The motion was granted the next day over objections from us and several other parties. Judge Marbley was joined on the panel by Western District of Kentucky Judge Beaton and Sixth Circuit Judge Thapar.
On March 21, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, asking the panel to direct the adoption of the Third Plan, which had been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court 5 days prior. We and other partied opposed on March 23. Also on March 23, Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking for the same relief as in their TRO. The PI was set for hearing on March 30. On March 25, the Court entered that the TRO be held in abeyance and directed two questions on the timing of election preparations to the Secretary of State.
On March 29 we filed a Motion to Dismiss. At the March 30 PI Hearing, the Court decided to not interfere in the state court process, but ordered additional briefing from all parties. Briefs were filed April 6 and April 11. On April 20, the 3-judge panel issued its ruling, which was a 2-1 split with Judge Marbley dissenting. The 2 judges in the majority ruled that if the Redistricting Commission does not adopt a new map and the General Assembly does not set a new primary date, then it will order the primary scheduled for August 2 and order the third map implemented -- despite the Ohio Supreme Court having found it unconstitutional.
Following the Ohio Supreme Court’s May 25 order striking the resubmitted Third Map, we filed a Motion on May 27 asking the federal court to set aside its April 20 order and wait until June 6 to order the adoption of the Third Map. Later that day, the Court entered an order providing that, unless the commission enacted a new legislative map by midnight on Saturday night, May 28, it was ordering Map 3 to be imposed for the 2022 election cycle. Unsurprisingly, Saturday night came and went with no action by the Commission, and the Secretary of State began steps to implement Map 3.