In 2015, Ohio voters approved Issue 1, which was designed to end gerrymandering, when the leading political party designs political districts to favor its politicians. This measure created the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which currently includes five Republicans and two Democrats.
Ohio AFL-CIO Legislative Director Matt Smith, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss political redistricting in Ohio and the efforts to prevent gerrymandering despite Republicans controlling five out of seven seats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
He also discussed two voter suppression bills being put forth through the Ohio legislature and the effects those bills could have on voter turnout.
Ohio’s new political maps may be unconstitutional
Republicans submitted what Smith believes are unconstitutional redistricting maps. Ohio law specifically spells out what representational fairness should be — and the redrawn maps fall short.
Fortunately, Ohio law allows voters to sue the Ohio Redistricting Commission and put the matter before the Ohio Supreme Court. Three groups have already done so, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the League of Women Voters.
Ohio lost one representative in the U.S. House following the 2020 Census and the process will need to set new Congressional districts. The legislature had until Sept. 30 to introduce new Congressional maps, but failed to do so.
The Commission failed to reach the bipartisan consensus necessary to pass a 10-year map of state legislative districts based on 2020 census totals and instead passed a four-year map purely along party lines that favors Republicans.
Two voter suppression bills introduced to Ohio legislature
Two voter suppression bills were introduced to the Ohio legislature — House Bill 294 and House Bill 387. The Secretary of State and more moderate Republicans support H.B. 294, Smith said. According to Smith, H.B. 387 more severely attacks voting rights, as it eliminates the use of ballot drop boxes, reduces early voting days from 28 to six, eliminates vote by mail except in severe circumstances and bans the Secretary of State from mailing absentee voting applications.
Both bills were introduced over the summer and have not received hearings. The Republican majority plans on passing at least one of the bills by the end of the year, Smith said.