Ohio Redistricting Republicans again ordered to respond to contempt motion

(The Center Square) – Members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission have until Thursday at 9 a.m. to tell the Ohio Supreme Court why they should not be held in contempt of court after resubmitting state legislative district maps that had already been tossed out by the court.

It’s the third time since the commission began the process of drawing new legislative maps in August it has been asked to convince the court not to be held in contempt. Four times, maps have been declared unconstitutional, and last week the commission again submitted its third set of maps that the court in April said unfairly favor Republicans.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner ordered the commission to respond after a motion from The Ohio Organizing Collaborative and other groups that called the decision to adopt a plan already ruled unconstitutional a power grab.

“The commission’s conduct was a power grab with the highest possible stakes: thwarting the expressed will of the people of Ohio about how they wish to be represented and openly defying this court’s power to say what the law is,” the motion reads. “The commission and its individual members have brazenly and repeatedly violated this court’s orders, thereby causing delay and prompting federal court intervention. The commission has no justification for its lawless conduct and does not offer any.”

The motion also asks the court to impose a $10,000 daily fine on four of the five GOP commission members – Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napolean, and Rep. Jeff LaRe, R-Pickerington – until constitutional maps are produced, order the commission to meet daily until a constitutional plan is produced, appear weekly in court, and develop constitutional maps for the 2022 election.

A three-judge federal court panel has also ruled, 2-1, if the commission cannot develop constitutional maps by May 28, it will order the third set of unconstitutional maps to be used and set the primary date for Aug. 2.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose told the federal court any new state legislative map needed to be finalized by April 20 to be able to used in this year’s legislative primary.

“No one disagreed with any of these statements at the federal court hearing, and the court noted as much in its ruling on April 20,” LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols said.

LaRose also told the commission April 20 was the final date, unless the General Assembly passed new election regulations with emergency measures.

Republican leadership in both the House and Senate said they did not believe the General Assembly would pass new regulations.

LaRose also told both the federal court and commissioners the third set of maps are the maps already programmed into most of the voter registration and tabulation systems at the county level. The federal court called that an “administrative advantage” other maps did not have.

“To be very clear, all parties agreed that the deadline for passing a new map has passed. In fact, the association that represents Ohio’s bipartisan election officials took the same position,” according to the secretary of state’s office. “No one is acting with contempt. To suddenly feign outrage and demand contempt proceedings simply because the commission did exactly what it told both state and federal courts was required under the law is beyond hypocritical.”

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