Your questions answered: Understanding rejected maps, redistricting problem in Ohio

Members of Fair Districts Ohio and other progressive and voting-rights groups chant angrily at members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission following the commission's May 5, 2022, readoption of state House and Senate district maps already rejected as unconstitutional. Members of the media cluster around commission members on the dais.

Credit: Jim Gaines

Combined ShapeCaption
Members of Fair Districts Ohio and other progressive and voting-rights groups chant angrily at members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission following the commission's May 5, 2022, readoption of state House and Senate district maps already rejected as unconstitutional. Members of the media cluster around commission members on the dais.

Credit: Jim Gaines

Like many voters in Ohio, you may find the repeated failed attempts at drawing new state and federal election maps confusing.

We break down your questions and in an attempt to give you a straight forward explanation.

» MOST RECENTLY: Ohio Supreme Court throws out map of U.S. House districts

How did we get here?

In an effort to end gerrymandering, Ohio voted in 2015 to redraw state legislative maps to make them more fair. In 2018, Ohio voted to also change the way congressional districts are drawn as well in state constitutional amendments.

What’s the problem?

There is an impasse between the Republican-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission, which draws the maps, and the Ohio Supreme Court, which approves the maps. After multiple attempts at creating new maps, the court has ruled that the maps are unconstitutional in multiple 4-3 decisions.

Why does the Ohio Supreme Court keep rejecting the maps?

The court believes that Republicans have maintained an unfair advantage in each of the maps drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. This was done by gerrymandering districts to provide “safe” Republican seats while creating many Democratic seats with narrow partisan margins, and that the Supreme Court has held out for maps that generally reflect the 54%-46% partisan breakdown seen in recent statewide elections.

Who is on the Ohio Redistricting Commission?

The Commission consists of seven state officials, five Republicans and two Democrats. The commission is tasked with the drawing of the maps.

What maps are being used in the next election?

The maps being used for state House and Senate races this year were ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. But a federal court ruled that they had to be used — for this year’s elections only — to break an impasse between the state court and Republican-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The federal ruling was the result of a Republican-backed lawsuit, alleging that voters’ civil rights were being violated by not having maps in place. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has asserted only those maps (the third set the commission approved) were feasible to use because most county boards of elections were already programming them into their systems before they were ruled unconstitutional, meaning they could be reinstated with less time and effort.

What is going on with the Ohio Congressional map?

In accordance with 2020 census results, Ohio must reduce its U.S. House seats from 16 to 15. The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 19, threw out the district map for the state’s 15 congressional seats, but that now-invalid map will still be used for the Nov. 8 election.

What is the current makeup of Ohio’s U.S. House of Representatives seats?

Currently Ohio is represented by 12 Republicans and four Democrats.

What is going on with the state legislative map?

The Ohio Redistricting Commission has passed five sets of House and Senate maps since September and all have been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Although legislative district maps are now in place for a state House and Senate primary election Aug. 2, those district lines (using the third proposed map) are likely to change again before the next primary season.

What happens with the maps long-term?

The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the commission to make a sixth try, though that is not expected until at least after the November election and probably next year.

New maps will not be put in place until 2024.

A map passed with single-party support, even if upheld by the court, must be redrawn in four years. A map supported by both parties would be valid until the election after the next U.S. census in 2030.

How do I know what district I’m voting in?

The Secretary of State’s Office released an online tool at findmydistrict.ohiosos.gov allowing people to type in their address and find out which districts they will be voting in this year.

About the Author