COLUMBUS (WKBN) – State Representative Emilia Sykes, the minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, called on her colleague across the aisle to join her in beginning the congressional map redrawing process.
Recently, a federal court ruling found the current congressional district map is partisan gerrymandered to favor the Republican Party.
The ruling included a demand to have the map redrawn by June 14 so it can be in place for elections in 2020.
Republican leaders immediately objected to the ruling and vowed to appeal.
Since then, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has filed a motion to put the court’s decision on hold until the Supreme Court of the United States could hear the case.
He asked the court to rule on his motion by Friday due to the time sensitivity of the demand to redraw the map.
Governor Mike DeWine took no position on whether the map itself is gerrymandered.
“I think we have to play this out,” he said. “The most important thing is whether or not there’s a stay or not a stay.”
A stay would mean the map would not need to be redrawn at this time. If there’s no stay, DeWine said the state must be prepared.
“Well if there’s not a stay, we have to go, you know, draw some lines.”
Currently, some congressional districts in Ohio are considered “safe districts” where a Democrat or Republican is highly likely to secure victory over the other party because the general population inside the boundaries of that district lean that way politically.
Because someone has to decide where those boundary lines are placed, it is possible to carve up parts of populated areas to include voters likely to cast their ballot one way or the other, or have based on past voting history, to heavily weight an area toward one party or the other.
Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected this kind of activity by passing two separate ballot issues to reform how political maps are drawn, both at the state legislative and congressional level, according to Sykes.
“They let us know. They do not want partisan gerrymandering. They’ve told us twice and for us to drag our feet or decide we don’t want to continue the will of the people of Ohio who elected us is a dereliction of duty.”
Sykes said the state has $5 million set aside to do the kind of work that needs to be done to redraw the maps. She said the state has the personnel to get this done in the timeframe the court has laid out.
“We have been put on warning and on notice, and so let’s do what the people have told us to do twice and get it together.”
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose championed redistricting reform while he was a state senator in the legislature. Now that he holds the secretary of state position, however, he is part of the lawsuit and said he cannot comment directly on the litigation.
However, he did have this to say about the prospect of drawing the next map:
“I’ve been a longtime proponent of redistricting reform. I helped lead the charge on that in the Senate and 75% of Ohioans approved that, and so what we want to see is a stable and reliable process that happens every ten years. That would be the best case scenario, as far as I’m concerned. And the next time we draw lines, hopefully, will be in 2021 following the census when we finally have this bi-partisan process where we can sit down and come up with lines that Ohioans can find mutually agreeable.”
Meanwhile, the motion to put the court’s decision on hold points out the ruling could be overturned if the Supreme Court of the United States finds that partisan gerrymandering is not unconstitutional.
Sykes said she is appalled Republican leaders would get behind that line of thinking.
“That is shocking that the leaders of this state would say, ‘Even if it is [partisan gerrymandering], since it’s not unconstitutional, we’re willing to keep [the map].’ That’s unacceptable.”