Update on Gerrymandering in Ohio
By: Kim Sadlier

     According to the Ohio Capital Journal, the coalition Citizens Not Politicians put forward a constitutional amendment at the end of August for the November 2024 ballot. Citizens Not Politicians is a coalition of people and organizations seeking to end gerrymandering in Ohio by removing politicians from the redistricting process, and instead empowering Ohio citizens to draw fair and impartial legislative and congressional districts through an open and independent process. The coalition is spearheaded by former State Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, and also includes former State Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown, a Democrat.

     The coalition’s proposal calls for replacing the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which is currently comprised of three statewide officeholders and four state lawmakers, with an independent body selected directly by citizens. This independent body would consist of a 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission (OCRC) made up of Republican, Democratic, and Independent citizens who broadly represent the different geographic areas and demographics of the state. 

     The intent of the proposed amendment is to put an end to future gerrymandering by banning current and recent political officeholders, additional people with strong political party or campaign ties, and lobbyists from participating in the process. Instead, the amendment empowers Ohio citizens by creating the OCRC, which requires the Commission to draw fair maps through an open and independent process. Fair and impartial districts will result, as it will be deemed unconstitutional to draw voting districts that discriminate against or favor any political party or individual politician.

     Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost rejected the initial petition summary, stating that the “summary lacked clarity and accuracy.” According to Citizens Not Politicians, it is not unusual for a proposed amendment to be rejected in its early stages. The coalition plans to review the Attorney General’s guidance, make necessary adjustments, and collect new signatures in order to refile as soon as possible. 

Brief History of the Mapmaking Process in Ohio:

     As many are aware, in a year-long process which began in September 2021, the current Republican-controlled redistricting commission—made up of lawmakers and elected officials— submitted five legislative maps and two congressional maps, none of which had bipartisan support, and all of which were rejected as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Ultimately, a panel of federal judges allowed a set of unconstitutional maps to go forward for the 2022 election.

     Under current rules, if both political parties approve new boundaries, the maps will be in place for a decade. Democrats did not cast a single vote for any of the final maps, which were all Republican-drawn. The GOP-controlled commission defied repeated instructions from the state Supreme Court to more closely align district boundaries with Ohio’s political composition.  As none of the maps had full partisan approval, the current map is a four-year map

Results of gerrymandering. “You reap what you sow.”

     As a September 2, 2023, article on the cleveland.com website pointed out, a “big majority of Ohioans back abortion rights, as well as gun law reforms such as mandatory background checks for gun buyers, recent polls show . . . . Yet Ohio’s state legislature banned abortion six weeks into pregnancy and failed to reform the state’s gun laws after a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton.” Per University of Cincinnati political scientist David Niven, the disconnect between Ohio’s policy-making and popular sentiment is a direct result of gerrymandering,.

     Unfortunately, because Citizens Not Politicians plans to place the amendment on the ballot next fall, and citizens will not be able to vote on it until that time, Ohio may continue to have unconstitutional maps in September of this year. The Ohio Redistricting Commission is set to reconvene September 13, 2023, to redraw maps. (This, despite the fact that they have not met once this year. ) As stated earlier, the current maps used for legislative elections last year were ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and therefore, to be redrawn. According to Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, the final legislative maps should be approved by September 22, with October 23 being the last possible date for approval. It is difficult to believe that these new maps will be drawn any more fairly than the previous designs. Editor’s Note: See below.

Latest News on Ohio Gerrymandering:

     According to The Washington Post on September 7, 2023, “The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits challenging the state’s congressional map — which was ruled unconstitutional last year as favoring Republicans — clearing the way for the map to be used for next year’s elections.” 

Preceding this dismissal, Democrats and voting rights advocates who had originally filed the complaints in March of 2022, requested that the Supreme Court dismiss their cases. Their reasoning was that redrawing maps would be an expensive, lengthy process that would be challenging for Ohioans in the long term.


     Per a September 27, 2023, Ohio Capital Journal article, “The Ohio Redistricting Commission reached bipartisan agreement as it passed new Statehouse maps late Tuesday night after a few more hours of public comment, and then negotiation behind closed doors. The maps show a Republican-to-Democratic advantage of 61 to 38 in the Ohio House, with eight Democratic toss-up seats and three GOP toss-ups. In the Ohio Senate, the maps show a 23 to 10 Republican advantage, with three Republican toss-up seats and one Democratic toss-up seat.” The same article quoted House Minority Leader Allison Russo’s explanation for her vote: “To me, it’s not a vote because I think that these maps are fair, or that this process worked the way that it was supposed to,” Russo said. “My vote is simply to take this process out of the hands of this commission.”

In the final analysis, it is imperative that the Democratic Party stay vigilant and provide any and all support needed by the Citizens Not Politicians Coalition to bring to Ohio fair maps in our future.



Citizens Not Politicians Newsletter, August, 2023

Sandusky Register August 30, 2023

The Marietta Times, August 30, 2023

The Statehouse News Bureau, August 30, 2023

The Washington Post, September 7, 2023

www.Cleveland.com, September 2, 2023

Ohio Capital Journal, September 27, 2023