Where Are We With Redistricting
By: Kim S

I have been actively involved in the Ohio redistricting process through Common Cause Ohio and Fair Districts since late 2020. Being a part of this process has been an eye opener into the world of politics as it was the first time I’d really delved into a project of this magnitude in the political arena. I had, and continue to have, a learning curve regarding the many rules and regulations when maps are being redrawn every 10 years. Monthly ‘huddle’ meetings are held by Common Cause Ohio and Fair Districts which provide expert speakers, lawyers, and even mapmakers which have proven helpful in understanding the mapmaking process but also keeps us abreast of other happenings affecting Ohio.

As many are aware, in 2015, 72% of Ohioans voted for legislative reform; also in 2018 78% of Ohioans opted for congressional redistricting reform. In preparation for the 2022 elections, Common Cause, in coordination with Fair Districts Ohio and the League of Women Voters (LWV) came together with common goals; to have the redrawing of districts be bipartisan, transparent, and involve public participation. In Issue 7, Volume 1 of the WIN Newsletter, Austin Smith thoroughly describes the many ways none of these goals were met by our Ohio legislators leaving us with unconstitutional maps to vote with in 2020. Additionally, the pandemic brought its share of challenges and delays as the census for Ohio needed to be collected and compiled before any redistricting could occur.

As part of our representation for Clark County during the redistricting process, I collaborated with a group of 5-7 Democratic women to create a map that would represent our community’s shared interests as well as the story of Clark County to present to the Ohio Commission. To create these Community Maps, training on specialized software with an individual from Common Cause was conducted. Several Ohio counties created these maps to send to the Ohio Commission with the hopes of having a part in the redistricting process. Unfortunately, we quickly learned, the Ohio Commission appeared to have its own agenda and did not utilize any of the maps sent to them. 

I would add another significant piece of information that is still in play. During the February Fair Districts huddle, Collin Marozzi, a lawyer for the ACLU, provided an update regarding where redistricting plans stand in the US. According to Mr. Marozzi, after the second map was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio Senator Matt Huffman filed a petition to the State Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on October 14, 2022 stating the Ohio Supreme Court incorrectly read Article XIX and therefore ‘unlawfully robed itself with the mantle of the legislature and created rules governing congressional elections.’ The LWV, ACLU, and Newman Petitioners, which is a group being represented by the National Democratic redistricting group, filed briefs in opposition to the petition on December 19, 2022. To complicate matters further, we have Moore v Harper, which has been brought to the SCOTUS by North Carolina’s legislators ‘asking the court to grant them unlimited power to set rules for voting and elections without state constitutional limits.’  Mr. Marozzi stated it is challenging to predict the outcomes of these cases as ‘our new SCOTUS is unpredictable at this point.’

So what are the next steps for 2024? Common Cause of Ohio, the League of Women Voters, and Fair Districts of Ohio plan to amend Ohio’s constitution to take mapmaking away from elected officials and place it with independent mapmakers. Preparations are already in place to bring this to fruition and it will definitely take a village of Ohioans, including the Clark County Democratic Party. It can be expected that thousands of individuals may apply for the planned  Independent Commission and it is important to select the right group of individuals who will perform the vetting process with these applicants and narrow the numbers down to a manageable number for the final selection process. 

Catherine Turcer, from Common Cause Ohio, discussed the kinds of in depth work that needs to be accomplished before further actions can be taken, including raising money, crafting ballot language, with public input, and building a strong and unified coalition. In addition, throughout the process, it is essential the language used fits with whatever decision comes down in Moore v Harper.

Finally, educating Ohioans about the importance of fair maps is needed, with the reboot of the Speakers Bureau, social media outreach, and other educational campaigns. Financial resources are paramount to ensuring all aspects of such an undertaking are well funded from signature gathering to place the amendment on the ballot to social media outreach, educating the public, even the purchase of t-shirts for rallies. I urge each of us in becoming a part of this most important next step. Just imagine, if we can be successful in creating an Independent Commission to draw Ohio maps, we may see legislators elected who are really serving us rather than their own self-interests.