Ohio Supreme Court reviews contempt accusations made against redistricting panel
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Ohio Supreme Court is reviewing whether to hold members of the state’s redistricting commission in contempt for not drawing a fifth set of new state legislative maps.
The court struck down the previous four plans as unconstitutional gerrymanders that unfairly favored Republicans.
Republicans on the commission argued there wasn’t enough time to adopt a new fifth plan in order to have a timely primary and general election for House and Senate candidates.
Democrats said they tried to convene a meeting as soon as the court struck down the commission’s fourth plan. Republicans didn’t agree to meet until 20 days after the court’s order.
The Supreme Court ruling came down nearly a week before a panel of three federal judges told state officials that if their redistricting legal fights weren’t sorted out by May 26, they would step in and force the state to implement that third plan.
Democrats and activist groups argued there was plenty of time to adopt a fifth plan, but Republicans opted not to so they could deliberately run out the clock.
“That was a slap in the face to the court,” Freda Levenson, the ACLU of Ohio’s legal director told 13abc. “It flouted its order. It flouted the constitution. It flouted the people of the state”.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said on social media Thursday that there is no more time to continue legal fights for the 2022 election.
“Let’s quit playing politics with senseless contempt orders, run this election in the fair and orderly way Ohioans deserve and get a new map for the 2024 election as soon as possible,” LaRose said.
The court’s Republican chief justice, Maureen O’Connor, has been the deciding vote in every previous legal challenge against the maps. She can no longer serve on the bench after 2022 due to age limits.
Commissioners now await her decision on how to proceed which could include setting a date to hold a contempt hearing. Legal challenges are also pending against the commission’s decision to resubmit its third plan.
For a first contempt conviction, the maximum penalties include a $250 fine and/or 30 days in jail. Levenson said she doesn’t think fines will be appropriate. She said she’d rather see the court force the commission to draw constitutionally-compliant maps.
You can watch extended interviews below with Levenson and Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio’s executive director, on why they feel commissioners should be held in contempt.
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