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Voting activist says decision to drop challenge to Ohio congressional map for 2022 is 'painful'

 League of Women Voters executive director Jen Miller speaks to reporters after a "Fair Districts" rally at a downtown Columbus church near the Statehouse in September 2021.
Daniel Konik
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Statehouse News Bureau
League of Women Voters Executive Director Jen Miller speaks to reporters after a "Fair Districts" rally at a downtown Columbus church near the Statehouse in September 2021. Miller says the League of Women Voters' decision to stop fighting for non-gerrymandered legislative maps during this election cycle has been made because the group is out of time as the May primary nears.

Though the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the ACLU have been winning their redistricting cases before the Ohio Supreme Court, they say they’re having to pull back on their fight over the congressional map for this election because they’re out of time.

When the Ohio Supreme Court said it didn’t have jurisdiction over the second congressional map Republicans approved after the court ruled the first one unconstitutional, League of Women Voters executive director Jen Miller says her group’s case had to start all over.

Miller said the lack of time in this election calendar is one reason why her group filed suit to throw out that map in 2024 but not this year.

“It's painful to have one election cycle under this terrible congressional map. On the other hand, it would be far more painful if we ended up in federal court and for some reason, the map actually got worse, and our ability to secure fair maps in the future also became harder because of a precedent those court cases set," Miller said in an interview for "The State of Ohio." "And so it's confusing, and it's hard to understand. What I can say is that we will continue to do everything we can for the people of Ohio."

Critics shared their anger over the decision on social media, saying the groups had given up and were settling for "rigged maps."

But Miller said while she understands the frustration, the anger is better directed at the Republicans who have controlled the redistricting process, which has been extended by months through delays and repeated court challenges.

"I do believe that the powers that be knew that time was on their side, that the closer that the primary came, the less likely we were to win in ending gerrymandering in Ohio," Miller said. "Even we had no idea that after we won time and time and time again in court that we would still see this play of running out the clock. But that's what they've done. And it's awful. It's gross, in my opinion, but it's where we're at."

Other groups say they will continue to fight the congressional map, which creates 10 Republican districts, three Democratic districts, and two competitive and slightly Democratic districts.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute said in a statement after the announcement from the League of Women Voters and the ACLU that they were withdrawing from the lawsuit with the other groups, "The time for fair maps is now....the A. Philip Randolph Institute will always fight like hell for Ohioans' right to vote and for fair maps, and we cannot wait a minute longer. Justice delayed is justice denied.” 

The Equal Districts Coalition, which includes Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, which filed one of the lawsuits over the legislative maps, plan an event Friday to explain their next steps.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.