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By David Pepper
Sadly, amid so much news, yesterday also marked the final step in the relentless multi-year effort to subvert Ohio’s democracy.
The final act of a drawn-out coup.
A legislative coup orchestrated over several years by politicians locked into gerrymandered power, against the citizens of Ohio who twice voted (by 70%+) to end that gerrymandered power. And against an independent Court that had been upholding the voters’ will.
Along the way, those politicians broke the law. They broke it when they violated the clear rules of the Ohio Constitution. Then they broke it again when they defied seven rulings by the bipartisan majority of the Ohio Supreme Court telling them they were violating the Constitution.
To make matters worse, unhappy about the independence of that Court, those same politicians also manipulated the rules (and ballot) of how Ohio’s Supreme Court Justices are elected—in the hopes of seating a new, partisan Court that would later bless their lawless activity.
And yesterday, they got their wish.
That now-partisan Court dismissed the case against yet another round of maps that clearly violate the letter and spirit of the Ohio Constitution, and the voted will of the people.
As she always does, Justice Jennifer Brunner offered a powerful dissent to that dismissal, explaining the lawlessness of it all:
“[The redistricting] commission has never appeared to be willing or capable of complying with our orders or the Ohio Constitution. Instead, it has taken the unprecedented position of refusing our orders, delaying these cases, and disobeying our deadlines….
“[T]he commission…employed its disobey-and-delay scheme, and as a result, Ohioans were forced to vote in a special August 2022 primary election using unconstitutional district maps. Now, having delayed the filing of a new plan in this court until well past the June 2022 deadline, the commission is seeking to avoid further review by obtaining a dismissal of the action….
“The majority’s decision amounts to a permission slip to ignore the constitution and is yet another disappointing milepost in this litigation. The majority’s decision hazards conveying to the public that we are reticent to fulfill our constitutional duty to review state legislative-redistricting plans to ensure their inherent coherence with constitutional requirements for fair legislative representation. The majority’s decision also hazards engendering a corresponding disappointment by citizens in our branch of government—the judiciary—furthering malaise, mistrust, and the perception that nothing changes in state government, except for the worse. Today’s order permits the commission to continue to deny Ohioans their constitutional right to fair voting districts. By first delaying and disobeying this and a federal court’s orders, then by holding special primary and general elections in 2022 using unconstitutional districts, and now by cutting a unanimous, bipartisan deal for a plan that is still alleged to not meet constitutional requirements, the General Assembly is not giving Ohio voters what they bargained for when they said “yes” to ballot issues in 2015 and 2018 to change Ohio’s constitutionally directed redistricting process.”
For Justice Brunner’s full dissent, read HERE.
And to make it clear just how shattered Ohio’s rule of law is, the swing vote in the 4-3 decision to dismiss was, once again, none other than Justice Pat DeWine. That’s right, the son of a member of the Redistricting Commission (Governor Mike DeWine) provided the crucial vote to dismiss a case against that Redistricting Commission.
But also…have no doubt…we remain resolute.
To keep going. To fix it all.
Because yesterday, and all that we’ve experienced over the last several years, illustrate as clearly as any set of actions could that the politicians of Ohio need to be fired from the process of drawing their own districts.
They were given the chance by the people to follow the rules. And the law.
They were give the chance to uphold and protect the democratic principles that the people voted into our state’s Constitution.
They were given the chance to shoulder a critical role and responsibility of an essential function of Ohio’s democratic process.
And they proved to the entire state and nation that they simply can’t do it. That they’re not up to it, and can never again be trusted with any role in the process. In fact, they showed that they will break the law and rig the rules in order to maintain their rigged power.
They have shown all this since 2021. They have shown it repeatedly. They have shown it in the wide open.
And as far as I’m concerned, they have shown us all enough.
Their time is up.
Through a new Amendment, we will fire the politicians from the process next November.
And in their place, we will put citizens in charge of the process forever more.
As we did in August and again in November, the people will again take our democracy back next November.
And we will use what happened yesterday, and the obscene lawlessness of the last two years, to make our case to an Ohio electorate that already spent all year protecting this state’s democracy against these same politicians.
Long past time.
Citizens, not politicians.
Oh—and while we’re at it—we can and must flip the Ohio Supreme Court next November.
A Court majority that allowed illegal gerrymandering to stand…a Court that gave a green light to ballot manipulation…a Court that allowed a special election on a day that violated the Ohio Revised Code…a Court rife with egregious conflicts of interest…is not a Court majority we want interpreting the new right to reproductive freedom and the new process to end gerrymandering that we will enshrine into the Ohio Constitution next year..
The opportunity to flip that Court majority will also be on the ballot next year.