COLUMBUS, Ohio — With pending litigation challenging Ohio's recently passed legislative maps, a new project is humanizing the stakes of the redistricting process.
The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments last week from three groups challenging the new Ohio House and Senate district maps as unconstitutional for violating anti-gerrymandering requirements.
Jeniece Brock, policy and advocacy director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and vice chair of the Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission, one of the plaintiffs, argued the maps dilute the power of voters in immigrant communities and communities of color.
"I've seen redistricting 'pack and crack' our Black and brown communities to dilute our voice," Brock asserted. "And together we are demanding that we have an opportunity to meaningfully influence the political process through redistricting."
The maps were approved 5-2 along party lines, and Republicans countered there is no evidence they are unconstitutional.
Black and Muslim Ohioans who feel they are being denied fair representation in state government due to gerrymandering are sharing their concerns on a new online "Democracy Warriors Story Bank."
Brock lives in Summit County, the fourth most populous county in Ohio. She pointed out gerrymandering has it split four ways among members of Congress.
"Not one of them in the last ten years have had residence in Summit County," Brock noted. "That is unfair to the folks living in Summit County to not have a single person that could advocate for the things that are important to you and your community. "
Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause, said once voting maps hit the courts, it becomes more difficult for citizens to weigh in on the process. Speaking at a redistricting seminar, she recommended the best way to influence the process was through a ballot.
"In some states where you have judicial elections, or there's a way to influence the judges that are chosen, it's making sure that there is a tremendous amount of voter education," Feng advised.
Ohio's Supreme Court justices are elected to six-year terms. The court currently is composed of four Republicans and three Democrats. Three Republican justices have terms expiring in 2022.