Legislative leaders and the state’s chief elections officer dug their heels in on continuing on with the May primary election, even as Ohio groups seek invalidation of the latest congressional redistricting map.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp have responded to requests by the League of Women Voters and a group of Ohio citizens represented by the National Redistricting Action Fund that the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the newest congressional district map.
Huffman and Cupp submitted their response together, starting by saying the Ohio Redistricting Commission “does not exist to simply rubberstamp redistricting plans favored by (court challengers).”
“It is entitled to exercise reasonable discretion in balancing the highly complex factors that go into congressional redistricting,” attorneys for Cupp and Huffman wrote.
While also arguing that the congressional map passed at the beginning of March is constitutional, Cupp and Huffman’s attorneys took the stance that the commission is the only authority in map-making in the state.
The LWV and NRAF had differing opinions on next steps if the court invalidated the map, with the NRAF asking the court to take over, but the LWV saying the map should be sent back to the courts for very specific revisions.
The legislative leaders argued that the Ohio Redistricting Commission is a “creature of the Ohio Constitution,” but with duties provided to it “independent of any other branch of government in Ohio.”
“It is the commission and the general assembly who solely possess the legislative authority to create legislative and congressional districts,” attorneys wrote.
It’s not fair, nor is it in line with the law, to compare the commission-adopted map to other maps that may have been submitted to the commission, but were never brought up for a vote or formally considered, Cupp and Huffman state in their court filing.
In their objections to the map, challengers had offered up maps from Stanford and Harvard political science professors as models for a replacement map.
Republican leaders flatly disagreed with the idea.
“It is now plainer than ever that it is dangerous and disingenuous to base Ohio constitutional law and the voting rights of millions of citizens on this untested and contradictory evidence conceived of by paid-for-hire mathematicians and social scientists,” Cupp and Huffman argued.
LaRose echoed the comments made in Cupp and Huffman’s filings that the map is constitutional and “needs no revision.”
But if the court rejected the map, LaRose said, it does not have the power to “unilaterally implement its own congressional district plan.”
“Again, Secretary LaRose will administer the 2022 congressional primary and general elections in accordance with a constitutional congressional district plan,” attorneys for LaRose wrote.
In this vein, Cupp and Huffman’s attorneys asked that the court “defer any action” on the congressional map until after the 2022 election.
They blamed the new state redistricting process, along with “significant logistical challenges” and even the U.S. Census delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic for exacerbating an “already challenging scenario” and leading to the adoption of the new congressional plan only days before the candidate filing period for the May 3 primary.
The Ohio Supreme Court is considering court challenges for not only the congressional map, but also the legislative maps. The ORC adopted the maps one week after the court-ordered February 17 deadline, risking contempt charges.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.
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