A decision this week by the Ohio Supreme Court kept in place the maps for state house and senate districts. Emily McCord is joined by Ellis Jacobs to break down what this means. He’s a voter advocate and an attorney with Advocates For Basic Legal Equality, or ABLE. Jacobs discusses how the map influenced the election and why it's important to Ohio's political future.
McCord: Welcome to PoliticsOhio, I'm Emily McCord. A decision this week by The Ohio Supreme Court validated the maps for statehouse and senate districts. To talk to me about what this means is Ellis Jacobs he is a voter advocate and is an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality of ABLE. Welcome.
Jacobs: Thanks Emily for having me.
M: It can be really confusing when we are talking about this process because in redistricting there are really two different things going on. When it comes to this Ohio Supreme Court decision we are talking about The Statehouse and Senate districts.
J: That's right, The Supreme Court decision is limited to how the state map is drawn the map that determines the state senate districts and determines Ohio statehouse districts, state representative districts its limited to that. I like to say that districting whether it’s state redistricting or federal redistricting is the most boring but most important thing in politics. People have a very hard time understanding just how important it is and how it works.
M: The whole crux of it is the idea that a lot of these counties, these local governmental entities, are actually being split up in advantageous ways to a certain political party...
J: That's right and the folks that challenged the statehouse maps in this Ohio Supreme Court decision pointed out that I think they said 49 counties are divided in 75 different ways and The Ohio Constitution says your not supposed to do that. The Supreme Court majority says you know what it’s not against The Ohio Constitution to draw the maps in a way that gives partisan advantageous to one party or another. The Ohio Constitution doesn't have an opinion on that.
M: Was this strictly on party lines or was this a contested decision?
J: No, the decision is 4-3. There was a strongly worded descent, there is only one democrat on the Supreme Court, she was in descent and she was joined by two Republicans and they said that: number one, this idea that you would have to prove the maps unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt doesn’t make any sense. The beyond a reasonable doubt standard is only a standard you use in criminal law. And secondly they said that if you are going to say we are going to have great deference to the previous maps basically what you are saying is we are never going to overrule any maps that are drawn for any purpose in Ohio. And I think that's really where the law stands right now in Ohio. The Oho Supreme Court has essentially, with this decision, said we're taking ourselves out of this we are not going to intervene to change any maps that are drawn for redistricting for The Statehouse and so that’s what I think people can expect going forward.
M: Well, now that the election is over we can look at this through hindsight. What can we draw as far as these results are concerned about what impact these state redistricting maps had on the election?
J: Well, you know every 10 years the maps are redrawn both the state maps that we've been talking about and also the federal maps that guides the districts for congressional representatives that go to Washington. So every 10 years they are redrawn and we just did it in 2011 and based upon those new maps we had the elections that we just had in 2012. And when the maps were redrawn in 2011 people looked at them and said well, you can see which districts are drawn to benefit which party. And, in fact, Ohio elects 133 people from state congressional districts, state senate districts and federal races and of those 133 districts 131of them went exactly the way the maps were designed. They yielded the result that was intended. That is kind of unfortunate, basically what it says is that the map drawing process matters a heck of a lot more to the outcome than people's opinions and how they choose to vote. As you know this year the democrats did a lot better this year than two years earlier you might’ve thought they would’ve gained some seats in The Ohio Statehouse, they didn’t. The maps were freshly drawn they yielded the result that was intended.
M: The Ohio Supreme Court is not going to touch it. Issue 2 just failed, what's going to happen next to address this?
J: Good question. There are a number of things that are in play right now. There's an Ohio Statehouse Commission that is looking at it a redistricting commission nobody really expects them to do a whole lot. And then there is this Constitutional Modernization Commission that was working in the state of Ohio right now that will go on for the next 10 years and they will probably look at it as well. So there will be some things in these formal processes but probably what’s going to happen is some of the players at The Statehouse and some of the people that have been pushing for change, the folks that were behind Issue 2, will probably be talking and maybe because everybody says they want to change it because everybody says the system is broken maybe they will come to some resolution. I think either way you are going to see the folks that pushed for Issue 2 and that's the League of Women Voters and Common Cause and I should say that I was a part of that process. You are going to see those folks continue to push for it whether it’s in the formal legislative arena or whether they, again, go to the ballot for some type of constitutional amendment.
M: I've been speaking with Ellis Jacobs he is an attorney with Attorney for Basic Legal Equality. Thanks for being here today.
J: Sure, Emily thanks for having me today.