According to former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor , a group seeking to overhaul Ohio’s redistricting procedure plans to put a constitutional amendment before voters in November 2024.
Last year, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected maps produced by Ohio’s Redistricting Commission on numerous occasions. O’Connor sided with the Democrats in redistricting lawsuits despite the GOP holding a one-seat majority.
Although O’Connor is a Republican she has been notorious for siding with Democrats on many controversial issues in the state’s high court. She has also clashed time and time again with current Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy by taking a more liberal viewpoint.
The more recent of two congressional maps created by Republicans was rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court in July. Ohio used the earlier GOP-designed map for its 2022 primary and won’t be using an updated map until 2024. Every ten years, the Redistricting Commission redraws the legislative and congressional maps to reflect demographic changes following the U.S. Census.
Republican state legislators appealed the Supreme Court ruling on congressional redistricting to the U.S. Supreme Court in October.
On Wednesday, O’Connor addressed a crowded Columbus Metropolitan Club audience. She had earlier stated that she planned to spearhead a new initiative for “fair mapping” before stepping down from the bench due to age restrictions in the judiciary.
“Now that I’m retired, I can be involved in efforts to maybe pass another constitutional amendment. And this time the constitutional amendment de-politicizes the redistricting commission,” O’Connor said.
Democrats have complained that they believe Ohio’s 15 U.S. House seats are too heavily weighted in favor of Republicans, and the state court has agreed with them. Ten of the seats are deemed secure holds for the GOP, while two of them are deemed safe holds for the Democrats. The remaining three seats are up for grabs. (Since Ohio’s population has not expanded at the same rate as the rest of America’s, the state will lose one of its 16 congressional districts.)
In 2021 and 2022, Governor Mike DeWine, the speaker of the Ohio House or his designee, the president of the Ohio Senate or his designee, a Democrat from each chamber of the Ohio legislature, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and Ohio Auditor Keith Faber made up the seven members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
Although O’Connor has frequently argued in favor of an independent committee, she claimed that it is still too early to predict what proposal she will bring forward. Any new amendment, according to her, will require time to develop so that it is thorough and free of flaws.
She wouldn’t say with whom she is collaborating on the issue.
“There would be no elected officials on the redistricting commission in an ideal format. Other states have done it and have done it successfully,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor noted that getting constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming.
“But it’s something I’m spending time on now with a core group of people. We’re talking about it, very seriously, and networking to a certain extent. And we’re going to see where it goes. Because even though here in early 2023, we’ve got to get cracking on it if it’s going to be on the ballot,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor’s statements come just a few weeks after State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) reintroduced the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment which aims to alter the process of how constitutional amendments can be proposed by initiative petitions. Currently, issues proposed by initiative petitions need to meet a 50 percent voting threshold to amend the Constitution. Under this proposal, these issues would need to meet a 60 percent threshold.
“Maureen O’Connor wants a constitutional amendment to install a faux “independent” redistricting commission made up of liberal college professors to draw our legislative district lines,” Stewart said.
According to former State Senator Dave Burke it is obvious that this is a sore losers’ attempt to ignore the electorate.
“The State of Ohio will now have four cycles of statewide Republican officeholders. Its lines haven’t changed. You’d expect the General Assembly to reflect this. Clearly, a sore losers attempt to disregard the electorate. My advice to Democrats: get better candidates and policies,” Burke said.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo ” Maureen O’Connor” by Yeager1000. CC BY-SA 4.0.