Does this mean that the new redistricting process is now a failed experiment? In fairness, getting the needed Census data several months late this year made it more difficult to reach agreement. And, there are still two more steps before the districts are final. The Ohio Supreme Court will almost certainly be asked to review whether the districts approved by the Apportionment Board comply with the Ohio Constitution. If they find that the Ohio Constitution was violated, they can order the Apportionment Board to redraw the districts. The Ohio Supreme Court can consider, among other things, whether the districts reflect the statewide voter preferences for each major party over the last 10 years.
I also expect a challenge to the new districts in Federal Court under the Voting Rights Act. But the Voting Rights Act is primarily concerned with whether the new districts disadvantage voters based on race. In the past, Ohio districts clearly favoring one party have still been found to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
So it is still too early to know whether the new method for drawing Ohio’s legislative districts is a failed experiment. Voters clearly want an end to gerrymandering. But if the 2015 amendment does not end it, voters have the power to make further changes by amending the Ohio Constitution again.
J. Donald Mottley, a former State Representative from Montgomery County, is now a state and local tax attorney with Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.