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Politics & Government

Group of GOP voters sue to force Ohio legislative map fix

House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission on September 9, 2021 at the Ohio Statehouse.
Andy Chow
/
Ohio Public Radio
House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission on September 9, 2021 at the Ohio Statehouse.

Updated at 2:10 p.m. on February 18, 2022.

Hours after the Ohio Redistricting Commission disregarded a state supreme court order by failing to adopt new Ohio House and Senate maps, a lawsuit was filed to move the issue to a panel of three federal judges.

A group of Republican voters has sued in federal court to force the implementation of Ohio legislative maps previously tossed out by the state Supreme Court. The Ohio Supreme Court has twice rejected the maps for being gerrymandered in favor of Republicans.

The voters filed the lawsuit Friday, one day after Republicans leading the Ohio Redistricting Commission declared an impasse after voting down an alternative map advanced by Democrats.

The group of voters who filed the suit include Ohio Right to Life president and delegate for former president Trump Mike Gonidakis and Republican former state representative Margaret Conditt. They say the "impasse" and the lack of a constitutional fix to the stalemate results in U.S. Constitutional violations for voters and candidates.

"Because the Plaintiffs are being denied the right to vote in violation of the U.S. Constitution, they are suffering an irreparable injury," the suit says in part.

The suit asks for the move under a federal law that sends challenges over redistricting to a panel of three judges. It also requests the maps that were approved on January 22 and rejected as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court on February 7 to be used for this year's elections.

The lawsuit says: "The ongoing uncertainty for the 2022 election cycle prevents voters, including Plaintiffs, from knowing their voting district, engaging with candidates, holding representatives accountable, and associating and organizing with their favored candidates.....Because the Plaintiffs are being denied the right to vote in violation of the U.S. Constitution, they are suffering an irreparable injury."

The Ohio Redistricting Commission’s Democratic co-chair, Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), said in an interview for this week's "The State of Ohio" that the lawsuit doesn’t surprise him.

“We have known all along that we’ve got multiple branches of government and levels of government, and people can possibly seek remedies at any one of those levels," Sykes said.

Sykes said the commission could be held in contempt in court, though he said he and House Minority Leader Allison Russo have documented their efforts to pass maps. The Democrats proposed maps at the meeting on Thursday, but Republicans refused to pass them and ended the meeting without putting forward their own maps.

Sykes said the constitution is clear on what’s required for legal maps, but Republicans have continued pushing for more districts.

“As long as the majority is not going to comply with the constitution, yes, we will continue to seek remedy in the court," Sykes said.

The map-drawing process driven by the 2020 Census is intended for new lines to be in place for the 2022 primary, which is May 3. Friday's lawsuit asks that the second set of maps be implemented.