Statement from Eric Holder on Ohio General Assembly’s Passage of Gerrymandered Congressional Map

November 18, 2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States and chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, released the following statement in response to the Ohio General Assembly’s passage of a gerrymandered congressional map:  

“The Republican gerrymandered map is an insult to the people of Ohio, who overwhelmingly supported reforms to take partisanship out of the redistricting process. Rather than adhere to the will of the people, Republican legislators purposefully ignored the state’s constitution. This egregious power grab has led to a map that is heavily manipulated in favor of Republicans, takes away the voting power of communities of color, and splits apart areas that should be kept together. This goes against the will, and the political preferences, of Ohioans. Ignoring state law simply so Republicans can gerrymander themselves into power is anti-democratic—and Ohioans deserve better.” 

The Ohio General Assembly passed a gerrymandered congressional map that adheres to alarming trends we are seeing in other states where Republicans control the redistricting process. Here are some of the characteristics of the Ohio Republican gerrymandered map and the process that led up to it:

  1. Expands the 2011 Republican Gerrymander: Despite the fact that Republicans have won just 54 percent of the statewide share of votes over the last decade, the Republican gerrymandered map would give their own party’s candidates a staggering 80 percent of Ohio’s congressional seats.That is an even higher amount than the 75 percent of congressional seats Ohio Republicans currently hold in a map rightfully panned as one of the most gerrymandered in the country from 2011.  
  2. Ignores the Reform Included in the State Constitution: In 2018, Ohio voters overwhelmingly supported redistricting reform with the goal of creating an open and  transparent map-drawing process. Unfortunately, throughout the duration of the process, Republicans did nothing to live up to the demands or promise of that reform. Their maps were drawn behind closed doors and their months of inaction led to two missed constitutional deadlines to adopt a bipartisan map. The legislature missed its initial deadline at the end of September without an adopted map, let alone a proposed one, and no public input hearings. During October when the Ohio Redistricting Commission was in charge, there was only one so-called hearing that was structured in a manner to prevent most Ohioans from participating. The Commission missed its October 31 deadline to adopt a bipartisan map and also never put forward a proposal. That missed deadline handed the congressional redistricting process back to the Republican-led legislature. In the final portion of the process, Republican legislators hosted five hurriedly-scheduled hearings in just one week on their initial proposed maps. However, state House and Senate Republicans waited to make those initial proposals public until after public testimony was due for their first hearings—preventing Ohioans from providing an informed response to their maps at those initial hearings. In the end, Republicans put forward their final congressional map after those hearings and just hours before initial votes took place on the map. 
  3. Lacks Transparency and Public Input: The Republican-led legislature rushed through its final stage of the redistricting process without any in-depth public discussion about the final gerrymandered map from its sponsors. The ultimately-adopted map was released just 14 hours before its first scheduled vote in the Ohio Senate without any of the underlying data that is necessary to understand the map’s effect on Ohio’s communities. While Republicans failed to provide accessible versions of the final map, the state Senate Democrats offered the public their first real glance at the map by themselves uploading it to a public mapping tool. The final gerrymandered map fails to incorporate any of the feedback hundreds of Ohioans provided in response to earlier iterations of the maps. In that testimony, Ohioans overwhelmingly demanded a fairer and more representative map.
  4. Dilutes the Voices of Diverse, Populous Urban Areas and Communities of Color: The final congressional map cracks and packs Ohio’s communities of color into districts that ultimately undermine their voting power and that deny them the deserved opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing. For example, in Franklin County, which includes the city of Columbus, Black communities are packed into just one district, and its Latino and AAPI communities are split across different districts. Black and Latino communities in Cuyahoga County, which includes the city of Cleveland, are packed into just one district while the AAPI communities are split apart into separate districts. The map also splits apart Cincinnati’s Black, Latino, and AAPI communities into different districts.

    The map also unnecessarily splits apart urban communities and their surrounding suburbs. For example, Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is split into three districts that stretch as far north as rural Darke County and as far east as Appalachian Meigs and Hocking counties. Parts of Columbus, including the Ohio Statehouse, and its surrounding suburbs are paired with Wilmington, which is a small rural town in Clinton County. Lake Erie on Ohio’s northern border is paired with Grand Lake St. Marys in a district that snakes from Lorain to Mercer County on the Indiana border, and Akron’s suburbs are paired with rural Amish country in Holmes County.