The List: Ranking the Ohio Republicans to blame for the redistricting fiasco

This isn’t a stalemate between two sides, but rather one party manipulating the process to maintain maximum power against the will of voters

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Republican members of the Ohio Redistrict Commission: (Top to bottom, right to left) Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose,  House Speaker Bob Cupp Auditor Keith Faber and Senate President Matt Huffman.

If the 2003 release of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song “Maps” could be considered a high point for modern cartography, then Ohio Republicans are responsible for a new low in the ongoing redistricting process, which has seen the Republican-led commission ignore everything from the will of the voters to a series of court orders in the party’s bid to retain maximum power. (Keeping in mind that, even under fairly drawn maps, Republicans would still hold a majority in both chambers.)

Ohioans voted in huge majorities on two different occasions — with 71 percent of the vote in 2015 and 75 percent of the vote in 2018 — to end the practice of gerrymandering in the state, putting in place legislation that was supposed to establish a transparent, inclusive map-drawing process. A process Republicans have spent months subverting.

Most recently, after having a series of Republican-drawn maps rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court, the redistricting commission, following the recommendation of the courts, hired a pair of bipartisan mapmaking consultants: Michael McDonald from the University of Florida and Doug Johnson from a California consulting firm. 

The two spent four days working in a livestreamed conference room, finally providing the level of transparency and inclusiveness for which Ohioans twice voted. But rather than voting on the maps drawn by these consultants — who were paid $450 an hour by Ohio taxpayers — Republicans on Monday presented and passed a different map that they had drawn in secret, and which is virtually indistinguishable from the Republican-drawn version previously rejected by the courts. (“I think there’s a decent chance this map won’t meet the court’s test,” said auditor Keith Faber, the lone Republican on the commission to vote against the maps.)

The worst part is that all of the stalling, bad-faith negotiation and open contempt for Ohio voters is likely to produce precisely what Republicans wanted: A gerrymandered map that maintains a supermajority in both houses, in a state that has voted 46 percent for Democrats over the last 10 years. (The Ohio Supreme Court set a briefing schedule in response to the latest challenge filed by Democrats, giving the parties 25 days to present evidence, well past the start of early voting for the May 3 primary. This makes it increasingly likely that, barring court order, the election will wind up taking place under a disputed map.)

Here are the Republicans to blame for this ongoing subversion of democracy, from least to most complicit (though all are culpable).

Keith Faber

The auditor has voted “no” on the last two Republican-drawn maps presented by the commission — the lone Republican to do so. Faber at least acknowledged recent maps were unlikely to pass court muster, though he has different objections from Democrats, voting "no" the previous time around because he believed the map split too many communities in creating districts.

Frank LaRose

The Ohio Secretary of State touted the strength and security of Ohio’s electoral process following the 2020 election but has since dipped most of his lower extremities into former president Donald Trump’s Big Lie. When it comes to redistricting, LaRose has continued the gaslighting, writing on Twitter on March 18 that “despite every effort by those who put politics over principle, [voters will] have the opportunity to make [their] voice heard in a secure, accurate, and accessible primary election,” which ignores that those who have put politics over principle in this situation exist almost solely on the Republican side (insert werealltryingtofindtheguywhodidthishotdog.gif).

Bob Cupp 

The Ohio House Speaker is the one responsible for bringing Doug Johnson into the mapmaking process this last week — a controversial decision due to Johnson’s standing as one of the nation’s most GOP-aligned mapmakers. Even then, Republicans wouldn't allow the process to play out. Cupp has also complained about the courts moving the goalposts in regard to the redistricting process, stating that the courts were “changing what the requirements are, or the refinement of those requirements,” which has not been the case. Rather, the courts have held true to the constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters, and which the GOP has repeatedly ignored. 

Matt Huffman

Honestly, Cupp and Huffman could easily be swapped, but recency bias led me to slot Huffman higher, since the senate president was tasked with presenting the Republicans' most recent map on Monday, describing the “parachute” proposal as necessary to getting a map done on deadline. Plus, Huffman also pushed on one aspect that tripped up the independent mapmakers brought in this last week when he said on Saturday that Senate incumbents had a right to serve out their terms and “cannot be redistricted out,” which isn’t a legal requirement of the redistricting process. (In its most recent rejection of Republican maps, the Ohio Supreme Court said Huffman’s “concern for protecting incumbents is not grounded in Article XI.”)

Gov. Mike DeWine

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when Open Ohio protesters engaged in a campaign of harassment against former Department of Health Director Amy Acton, DeWine stepped up and announced that “the buck stops stops with me,” an idea he’s long since abandoned in the face of the looming gubernatorial primary. Following the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, DeWine spoke of establishing stricter gun laws. So of course, this month he signed permitless concealed carry into law, which will allow adults to carry a concealed firearm with no license or training. In regard to the map-making process, DeWine said on March 17 that he was “taking the lead right now,” and then he stood by silently 11 days later as Huffman introduced yet another map drawn in secret by Republicans. Maybe it’s time to remove the picture of DeWine from Ohio.gov and replace it with an image of the entity that is truly in charge of running the state. Namely this photograph.