By: Jayde Morgan
With the exception of the last few years, Ohio had always seemed to fall firmly into the category of a “swing-state.” In 2016, it was seen as a vital state for either candidate to claim victory over. However, since 2016, Ohio has come to be seen as a firmly Republican-held state. Some have gone so far as to claim that Ohio should no longer be on the roster of states that Presidential candidates should visit and attempt to win. This is a marked change from 2012 when former President Barack Obama won 50.1% of the vote and United States Senator Sherrod Brown won 50.3% of the vote.
At that time, the Ohio government was divided with a Republican governor, one Republican Senator, one Democratic senator, a Republican House of Representatives, a Republican State Senate and State House of Representatives, but ultimately voted for Democrat, Barack Obama in the presidential election. Comparatively, Republican President Donald Trump received 53.3% of the votes in the 2020 election and Republicans gained a supermajority in the House of Representatives.
With Ohio becoming a staunchly conservative state, it seems inevitable that redistricting would reflect this trend. The Brennan Center recently filed a lawsuit to force the Ohio Redistricting Commission to redraw maps that they claim are “a master class in how to achieve a one-party state” or, in other words, the result of an effort to further solidify the Republican supermajority in the once “purple” state. The lawsuit was filed on Monday, September 27, 2021 and focuses on the alleged violation of equal protection and associational rights and the prohibition of partisan gerrymandering. Though gerrymandering is not a new concept in Ohio, many were outraged that the alleged extreme partisan gerrymandering came on the heels of a 2015 constitutional amendment that was specifically created to reduce partisan gerrymandering.
Further, it was approved by approximately 71 percent of the voters in Ohio. Additionally, many Ohioans were hopeful that the Commission would adhere to the amendment’s instructions when the Ohio Citizen’s Redistricting Commission (OCRC) was created as a non-partisan commission made up of members from a variety of different backgrounds. However, the Commission, comprised of seven members voted along party lines (5-2) to approve a map would almost guarantee Republican victories for the foreseeable future. The Brennan Center, in their lawsuit, focuses primarily on Black and Muslim communities in Ohio that were cracked and packed to the point that citizens of these communities are concerned that their voices will not be heard. In an effort to explain the maps, commission members said that the constitutional amendment was an “aspiration” as opposed to a “requirement.”
The court case will focus on the alleged violation of the Ohio Constitution, specifically the amendment from 2015, rather than any federal laws. While the main issue that the Brennan Center seems to address is extreme partisan gerrymandering, they have also included the fact that the new map will disproportionately harm communities of color in Ohio. At this point, the OCRC has come to its conclusion and created a map that has been approved by the commissioners. It will be vital to watch how the case, Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, will progress. The current makeup of the court is more conservative leaning, which may impact their view of and decision regarding this court case.