Answering viewer questions about the Ohio redistricting process

Posted at 6:25 AM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 11:01:36-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After a week's worth of work and about $100,000 spent, the map that the independent mapmakers made may not even be used.

Late Monday night, four of the five Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission (ORC) threw away the independent mapmakers plan and “tweaked” the third map that they made and approved. This third map had already been rejected by the state Supreme Court.

Viewers reached out to News 5 with questions about how this is happening. Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau brought them to legal professionals.

Katy Shanahan and Chris Tavenor are both lawyers who work for two of the multitude of organizations asking the Supreme Court to ask the Commission why they shouldn't be held in contempt. They are not speaking on behalf of the case but as constitutional attorneys. Here is what was learned.

Read more about the contentious hearing from News 5 Cleveland's news partner Ohio Capital Journal.

Q: The map proposed last night, how is it different from the third rejected map?

A: "There were slight changes that effectively didn't change the map," Shanahan said. "I mean, there weren't any substantive changes to the map, is the short of it."

They decreased the number of "toss-up" seats. Rather than there being 19 toss-up seats in the House, there are now only 18. There were about seven Senate toss-ups in the previous map and there are still seven now. There are still no toss-up seats for Republicans, so in both chambers, all of their seats are entirely safe, according to Shanahan.

Q: Was the Commission allowed to use the third map?

A: "The court was actually very clear that when we tell you to redraw maps, we don't actually mean start from the ones we just invalidated," she said. "We mean literally start from scratch and draw brand new maps."

"All the laws that are passed in Ohio and in the country, there are statutes passed by legislatures or you might have a regulation that's passed by an administrative body and those are the laws that govern the land," Tavenor said. "But above all of those is how we got the Constitution in the United States. We have the US Constitution. And in a way, doing an unconstitutional act is almost worse than doing an illegal act in the sense of something that violates an individual law, something that is unconstitutional, you're violating the governing document that allows us to create laws in the first place."

The third map was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court for being gerrymandered. Also, the Supreme Court ordered the Commission to have new maps. The Commission Republicans broke the law, they said.

Q: What happens if the fourth map is rejected again?

A: "That's something that the litigant groups have thrown sort of multiple answers to the Court," she said.

The lawyers said that the least Ohio could do is push the primary back. Some of the petitioners are asking for the Court to give even more explicit directions to the Commission so they aren't "confused" with the law, appoint a specific person to watch over the Commission to make sure they are following the law, or choose one of the other maps submitted by either the independent map makers or the democrats.

Q: Do we need a primary?

A: "The primary is required by state law and it has a date in state law." Tavenor said. "There are situations in which a primary has been moved or could be moved to."

On Wednesday, a U.S. District Court will be holding a hearing related to these maps. A three-judge panel will be deciding if they are going to overrule the Ohio Supreme Court and take the matters into their own hands. Also Wednesday, the plaintiffs are asking for a response by that day and a hearing for Thursday to see why ORC shouldn't be held in contempt.

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