ACLU and voter groups sue in Ohio for new legislative cards – CBS Pittsburgh

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A lawsuit filed Thursday challenges Ohio’s newly drawn state legislative districts as giving an extreme and unfair advantage to the Republican Party, which controls the new state redistribution commission.

The American Civil Liberties Union, its Ohio branch, and a law firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio branch of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and several individual voters against the members of the commission.

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The groups say the lawsuit is the first such lawsuit in the country against redesigned district maps using the results of the 2020 census.

It targets a map that the powerful new Ohio Redistribution Commission passed in a 5-2 vote along party lines last week. The panel failed to reach the bipartisan consensus needed to adopt the normal 10-year map of the state’s House and Senate districts envisioned as part of the redistribution and was therefore forced to create one in four maps. years.

Republican Senate Speaker Matt Huffman, who played a leading role in crafting the maps, defended the maps as constitutionally compliant and rejected the idea that they were gerrymandered.

Freda Levenson, chief legal officer for the Ohio ACLU, called the cards an “extreme partisan gerrymander” that blatantly violates the redistribution rules set out in the Ohio Constitution, after approval by a strong majority of voters from Ohio.

“The blatant disregard for the reforms that were overwhelmingly passed by voters in Ohio just six years ago is not only a violation of the law, but a slap in the face to the people of this state as well. “Levenson said in a statement. “We are going to the highest court in this state to make sure that Ohio voters can have a voice in their government.”

According to the lawsuit, Republicans have won a share of the vote between 46.2% and 59.7% over the past decade, but the card draws 67% of House districts and 69% of Senate districts in favor. Republicans.

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Under Ohio’s new redistribution system, the Ohio Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over legal disputes regarding the card. In a briefing with reporters on Thursday, the plaintiffs and their lawyers said the case needed to be speeded up so that any new cards ordered could be completed by January, before the 2022 candidates had to come forward for the 2 February.

Huffman rebuffed accusations of gerrymandering in a Friday guest column in The Columbus Dispatch, based on “a false story.”

He said the map is “both constitutional and consistent” with guidelines approved by voters and that it keeps compact districts and communities together.

“Make no mistake, special interest groups have tried very hard to undermine the process by pressuring members to accept so-called ‘fairness of representation’,” he wrote. “This is just the basic definition of gerrymandering because these groups insist on telling the voters of Ohio what is right.”

Levenson said fairness of representation is not reverse gerrymandering to favor the other party – in Ohio’s case, the Democrats – but rather cards to fairly represent each party’s vote share.

“Yes, it would improve Democrats’ representation in the General Assembly (of Ohio) if they won, but it would be for the sake of fairness, not to gain an unfair advantage,” Levenson said. “That would be to undo an unfair advantage, obtained because the people who draw the map are making the map to favor themselves.”

Representatives from the ACLU and the League of Women Voters pointed out that these were non-partisan organizations that fought cards manipulated to favor both Republicans and Democrats.

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(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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