Ohio’s redistricting battle intensifies
March 2 Congressional plan now being challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission passed a new Congressional plan on March 2, using a map that was revealed to the public and the minority party members of the Commission just an hour before the hearing where it was adopted on a party-line vote. Two days later plaintiffs filed objections with the Ohio Supreme Court, saying that the new plan has the same defects cited by the Ohio Supreme Court in ruling the first Congressional plan unconstitutional because it violates the voter-passed prohibition of unduly favoring one party and disfavoring the other. Now the scene of battle returns to the Ohio Supreme Court, which is also reviewing the third set of state district maps after finding the first two unconstitutional. If the Redistricting Commission refuses to follow the fair map rules adopted by over 70% of Ohio voters, how will the principle that all votes count equally be restored?
As the deadlock continues, Congressional and state House and Senate candidates have had to file their candidacy petitions without any certainty on the boundaries of the districts in which they are running. The Secretary of State ordered county boards of election to prepare ballots, but they don’t even know what voters will be in each district (or, by extension, which petition signatures are legal).
Citing two political scientists whose analysis was used by the Court in its earlier rulings, the plaintiffs document how the map packs and cracks Democratic communities – including Hamilton and Franklin counties – to waste Democratic votes. The plaintiffs cited the same scholars’ analysis of the new map to predict that Democratic candidates could win at most a third of Ohio’s 15 seats, far below their share of votes (46%) in statewide elections over the previous decade, the benchmark included in the 2018 constitutional amendment.
“In justifying the [Congressional] map,” wrote Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Jessie Balmert, “Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, argued that mapmakers no longer need to follow anti-gerrymandering language in the Ohio Constitution that prohibits plans from unduly favoring one party over the other – even though the high court struck down a previous map for that reason. ‘The unduly language does not apply,’ Huffman said, in part, because Ohio is facing an emergency threatening the May 3rd primary.” House Minority Leader Allison Russo, one of two Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, retorted that his interpretation was “absurd… essentially like me robbing a bank and saying that is my money.”
Permitless conceal-carry bill passes both houses, now on Governor DeWine’s desk
SB 215, which will allow Ohioans 18 and older to carry concealed guns without a permit or training, was passed by the Ohio Legislature last week and is now before Gov. DeWine despite written testimony, emails, and phone calls from a huge number of citizens concerned about public safety. As of the morning of March 8, the Governor, who promised to support common sense gun safety laws after the mass shooting in Dayton, had not yet signed this bill into law. Please call Gov. DeWine and his staff to express your views.
Their names and contact information can be found here.
Here is an example of the evidence-based concerns over SB 215, from testimony submitted by attorney Douglas Rogers, a volunteer with Ohio Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense: “FBI statistics on violent crime rates in Arizona… show that – from the date permitless carry was adopted in 2010 through 2020 – the rate of violent crime in Arizona increased by almost 17%, but the rate in the United States decreased.”
The front page story in the March 8 Cincinnati Enquirer, “Lawmakers Chip Away at Home Rule in Ohio,” cited state law prohibiting local governments from passing their own gun safety ordinances as a chief example. Rogers’ testimony continues: “I was disturbed by comments by Representative Plummer about Ohio’s cities yesterday – which seemed to demean Ohio cities… The General Assembly, not the cities, prohibits the cities from addressing gun violence (see R.C. §9.68). Let the cities have some semblance of home rule for common sense gun laws, and you will see crime rates going down in cities…23 state attorney generals, including Ohio Attorney General Yost, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court their joint conclusion in 2019 that state gun purchase laws that require a background check and training decrease crime rates. Yet the General Assembly is on the verge of eliminating those safeguards against crime by passing SB215.”
Opponent hearing March 10 on SB 185, which would exempt weapons dealers from shutdown in times of emergency
Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio has issued an urgent call about the March 10 Ohio House Government Oversight Committee hearing on SB 185. Testimony is due no later than 10 a.m. March 9.
“This bill would classify weapons dealers as “essential businesses” that are exempt from any government shutdown in times of emergency. The bill would also allow people to bring firearms and explosive devices — including dynamite — into cordoned-off “riot” areas.,” writes UUJO. Here is the link to the committee roster, and witness form and testimony instructions.
Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org