FACTS

Following the receipt of population data from the 2020 census, Ohio’s Redistricting Commission began working to draw and adopt maps that will define Ohio’s state legislative districts (Ohio’s State House of Representatives and State Senate) for the next decade. The establishment of the Commission, the process it follows, and the criteria for drawing the maps are the result of an Ohio constitutional amendment that was adopted in 2015 and effective for the first time this year.   

For the two previous decades, these General Assembly maps, as well as the map defining the districts for Ohio’s Congressional House of Representatives, were heavily gerrymandered, causing severe, partisan skewing consistently in favor of the Republican Party, which controlled the map-drawing process.  

This pattern of Republican gerrymandering continued even under the new rules. ust after midnight on September 16, 2021, by a 5-2 vote along strictly partisan lines, the Ohio Redistricting Commission enacted new, extremely partisan maps, to be in effect for the next four years.

LEGAL THEORY

The Senate and House maps enacted by the Redistricting Commission on September 16 constitute a partisan gerrymander in violation of Article XI, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution, which provides that: (1) district maps may not be drawn primarily to favor one party; and, (2) the proportion of the districts favoring each political party must correspond closely to the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio. 

STATUS

We filed our Complaint in the Supreme Court of Ohio on September 23. Relators on behalf of voting rights groups the League of Women Voters of Ohio and A. Philip Randolph Institute of Ohio, as well as six Ohio voters from impacted districts. Respondents are the Ohio Redistricting Commission and each of its seven members. In the days following our filing, two similar lawsuits were filed by other Ohio voters and civic groups, Bria Bennet, et al. v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, et al., No. 2021-1198, and Ohio Organizing Collaborative, et al. v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, et al., No. 2021-1210. On September 24 we filed a scheduling motion recommending a compressed schedule of deadlines for discovery and briefing. The Court ordered Respondents to reply to our motion by September 28. All but the Democratic commissioners opposed. On September 29, the Court adopted an even more expedited schedule than the one we suggested and denied our motion as moot. The schedule provides that evidence be filed by October 22, Relator’s brief by October 29, Respondents’ brief by November 5, and our Reply by November 10. This schedule was applied to all three cases. Our case was also scheduled for oral argument on December 8.

Following some Respondents’ refusal to agree to appear for depositions or conduct reasonable discovery, on October 4 we moved the Court to appoint a Master Commissioner to oversee disputes and a Motion to Compel Expedited Discovery. The Court declined to appoint a Commissioner but did set parameters for the exchange of written discovery and depositions. All seven commissioners have been deposed, in addition to Republican and Democratic map-drawing consultants. We have also conducted written discovery. 

Attorney(s)

Freda Levenson, David Carey; ACLU VRP's Alora Thomas, Julie A. Ebenstein, Kelsey MIller

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Covington and Burling, LLP

Date filed

September 23, 2021

Court

Ohio Supreme Court

Status

Open

Case number

2021-1193