Ohio’s new congressional district map faces another court challenge

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — A national Democratic group has filed objections over new the new congressional district map, as the state’s top elections official says the May 3 primary could have to be changed.

The National Redistricting Action Fund accuses Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission of refusing to follow the directions of the Ohio Supreme Court in creating the latest 15-district congressional district map.

That map creates 10 Republican districts, three Democratic districts, and two competitive districts that lean Democratic.

In their objections filed in supreme court, the NRAF says the commission failed to comply with the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the state constitution.

“The commission did not recalibrate. In fact, it did not even pretend to follow the court’s directions. Instead, it drove off in the opposite direction entirely,” wrote Donald McTigue, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The National Redistricting Action Fund is an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. It’s aligned with Eric Holder, former US Attorney General under President Obama.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted the new congressional district map on March 2. The responsibility of drawing new districts came back to the commission after the court invalidated a previous plan approved by state lawmakers.

In 2018, voters overwhelming approved changes to the constitution to avoid gerrymandered districts, when maps are drawn to unduly favor one party over another.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the court ruled the previous congressional plan invalid based on certain sections of the constitution. But Huffman said those certain sections, including the requirement to not draw maps that unduly favor one party over another, do not apply to the Ohio Redistricting Commission at this point in the mapmaking process.

The lawsuit criticizes Huffman’s assessment of the mapmaking process calling his stance a “fundamental misdirection.”

The League of Women Voters of Ohio, which also challenged the first congressional map in court, is still reviewing the new map and considering their next steps.

Members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission have until March 8, 4 p.m. to respond to the lawsuit.

Ohio’s top elected officials say it’s still possible for the state to hold a primary on May 3, even with the pending status of the new district maps. However, Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio) said it would not be possible to hold a May 3 primary for state legislative or congressional races if the court were to take action on either of those district maps.