After the Oho Supreme Court ruled the third state district map unconstitutional, the Ohio Redistricting Commission hired two independent mapmakers – one Republican and one Democrat – at a cost to taxpayers of $98,000. They were close to completing a map in a transparent process shown on the Ohio Channel, but their work was slowed by a number of questions and factors raised by Republican commissioners, including taking into account the addresses of incumbents, despite the Ohio Supreme Court having said that protecting incumbents elected by a gerrymandered map contradicted the very goal of the constitutional amendments passed by voters to prevent partisan gerrymandering.
On the deadline day, the House Speaker and Senate President said the consultants’ work had failed and presented a map produced out of public view, rushing through a vote to adopt it. This map was a slight revision of the third plan previously found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, and the Court ruled this fourth plan unconstitutional on April 14, ordering the Ohio Redistricting Commission to revise it. It’s the third plan that the federal panel will impose if the Redistricting Commission fails to come up with a map which passes constitutional muster.
The Republican leadership has no incentive to reconvene the Commission when a map predicted to produce a veto-proof supermajority for their party is now a foregone conclusion if they do nothing. Either the two co-chairs or three commissioners can vote to reconvene the commission. So far, no Republican member has agreed with the two Democrats to resume work. “We are acutely aware of its flaws,” the federal panel said of the rejected third set of maps. “Yet with deference to the state in mind, we see it as the best of our bad options.”
“By using the third set of maps as a backstop, judges buy Ohio officials more time to find a different solution, Thapar and Beaton argue,” writes Jessie Balmert in the Cincinnati Enquirer, referring to the two federal judges who chose this strategy.
“But [Judge] Marbley disagreed, saying that forecasting their eventual pick only made it easier for Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to wait out the clock. ‘Indeed, the Republican Commissioners will benefit directly from a crisis they created, and which the Ohio Supreme Court has attributed squarely to them,’ Marbley wrote.
Balmert continues: “The two other judges had more faith in the commission, writing, ‘we must presume that Ohio’s officials are public servants who still view partisan advantage as subordinate to the rule of law.’ But if Republicans on the commission like the maps they already passed, there is little incentive to act. Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, took to Twitter for a victory lap: ‘Now I know it’s been a tough night for all you libs. Pour yourself a glass of warm milk and you will sleep better. The game is over and you lost.”