Brennan Center
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Civic Groups and Black and Muslim Voters Sue to Block Gerrymandered Ohio Maps
Black and Muslim voters and various community organizations have sued to block the use of aggressively gerrymandered legislative maps in Ohio that would create a durable Republican supermajority in the legislature. The maps are a flagrant violation of a constitutional amendment that requires, among other things, that districts “correspond closely to the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio.” Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment in 2015 by wide bipartisan margins.
The state’s redistricting commission voted along party lines in the early morning of September 16 to pass a map that effectively ignored many of the amendment’s requirements. As Amina Barhumi of CAIR-Ohio said, “Unfortunately, the official redistricting commission failed to deliver its constitutionally mandated duties.” CAIR-Ohio, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the Ohio Environmental Council, and a number of Ohio voters are represented by the Brennan Center and Reed Smith LLP in the case before the Ohio Supreme Court. You can read more about and keep up with the lawsuit here.
Don’t Judge a District by Its Shape
When voters hear “gerrymandering,” they might picture bizarrely shaped districts contorted to connect distant constituencies across a state. The shape of districts is one way to assess whether a district is gerrymandered, but as the Brennan Center’s Yurij Rudensky and Julia Boland write, a district’s shape only tells part of the story. They show how districts with irregular shapes may have been drawn to connect communities that share common interests while districts that may look compact are in fact shrew attempts to conceal partisan gerrymandering. Read more on how to look beyond a district’s shape so you can make well-informed public comments at redistricting hearings.
Redistricting in the News:
  • Although the Voting Rights Act helped create majority-minority districts in southern states with a history of disenfranchising Black voters, a growing number of Black House members from these districts are now saying that districts are drawn in ways that over-concentrate Black voters. By un-packing Black districts, these members say that additional electoral opportunities could be created for Black voters.
  • Bipartisan redistricting commissions were designed to encourage cooperation between Republican and Democratic members during the redistricting process. However, the aggressive map proposals coming out of bipartisan commissions — which are less removed from the political process than independent commissions — suggest the limits of bipartisanship. Instead of compromise, bipartisan commissions across the country this cycle are splitting along party lines to adopt skewed maps.
  • In Arizona, Navajo Nation leaders are objecting to the first drafts of the independent redistricting commission's maps, which split a majority Native district in two. Navajo leaders want the commission to recognize the area composing the Navajo Nation as a community of interest and keep it in one legislative district, with one official calling the proposed change “devastating” for the Navajo Nation.
  • The Colorado independent congressional redistricting commission voted to approve a congressional map proposal after seven rounds of voting. The map will now be reviewed by the Colorado Supreme Court.
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has announced that the state’s special session to draw new congressional and legislative districts will begin on November 3. The state’s Republican majority is expected to use the redistricting process to increase their majority in Georgia’s congressional delegation and state legislature.
  • In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed amended redistricting plans for legislative districts into law. Democratic lawmakers created the new plans to strengthen their legal argument that the maps are constitutional after Illinois Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed lawsuits in federal court arguing that the maps violate the Constitution.
  • Oregon legislators compromised on a congressional and legislative redistricting plan after a boycott from Republican legislators and a positive case of COVID-19 in the Capitol threatened to derail the process. This makes Oregon the first state to pass a congressional map this redistricting cycle.
  • Pennsylvania’s state apportionment commission voted to limit the scope of a measure that was set to count most people incarcerated in state prisons at their home address. Now, any person who will still be incarcerated in a state prison in 2030 will be considered a resident of the county where the prison is located. Democrats on the commission decried the new resolution as an effort to bolster the political power of Pennsylvania’s rural and majority-white districts.
  • Republican legislators in Texas have released a draft of a new congressional map that would shore up incumbent Republicans and reduce the number of competitive districts. Some advocacy groups are arguing that the map is a blatant attempt to dilute the power of communities of color.
  • In Wisconsin, the Republican-controlled state legislature petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to block a lawsuit filed by Democrats that would hand redistricting control over to a federal court. Republicans, who are hoping that that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will get involved in the redistricting process, have argued that the federal court overstepped its authority in agreeing to hear the lawsuit.