Voting rights advocates say Ohio congressional map is gerrymandered Ohio's new congressional map favors Republicans 13 to 2. Voting rights advocates say it's a violation of redistricting rules voters put in place in 2018. One group has already filed a legal challenge.

Despite voter-approved anti-gerrymandering reforms, Ohio GOP still draws lopsided map

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

States around the country are in the process of creating new congressional district maps. Some are drawn by citizen commissions. Others are crafted by elected officials. Ohio's new congressional map was drawn by Republican lawmakers, and the result is drawing accusations of gerrymandering. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

ANDY CHOW, BYLINE: Voter rights advocates are standing in a statehouse committee room huddled around an easel holding a large printout of Ohio's new congressional district map.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: There's no reason for Hamilton County to be split into three districts.

CHOW: They're examining the different splits and unique curves that divvy up the state and what will become 15 new congressional seats.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Like, here's like a little bunny rabbit, you know, that's going forward.

CHOW: Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters of Ohio says the map was drawn by Republicans for Republicans.

JEN MILLER: Maps don't look like this unless you're trying to secure a partisan outcome rather than fairly representing voters.

CHOW: Ohio's new congressional map has 12 seats that either heavily favor or lean in favor of Republicans. That's 80% of the districts in a state that voted for Republican Donald Trump with 53% of the vote in 2020. There are six districts where the margin between Republican voters and Democratic voters is less than 10%. But of those six districts, five still lean in favor of the GOP. Republican State Senator Rob McColley says their map is actually an improvement on the old one because it creates more competitive districts.

ROB MCCOLLEY: I don't think we should go into any mapmaking process and say, OK, we have to have seven that are guaranteed to be one party and eight guaranteed to be the other party. I don't think that's what the voters wanted.

CHOW: Republicans also say the map keeps most of Ohio's largest cities whole and splits fewer counties. But in a heated floor debate, Ohio House Democrats, such as Representative Stephanie Howse, chided state Republicans, saying this map ignores the anti-gerrymandering reforms passed by voters three years ago.

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STEPHANIE HOWSE: So let's be for real. Like, that is not what people voted for on May in 2018. They deserve better. We need to do better. And we need to absolutely vote this mess down.

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BILL SEITZ: Fair, ladies and gentlemen, is in the eyes of the beholder.

CHOW: But Republican Representative Bill Seitz says Ohio has been trending red and that elections depend on any given candidate.

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SEITZ: We have followed the Constitution. We have done our duty. We have listened to the people. Listening to them does not mean agreeing with them.

CHOW: The new map potentially tips the scales of power in the U.S. House of Representatives by eliminating two safe Democratic seats and creating a possible 13th district that's winnable for the GOP. Ohio has become the latest state to finalize a new map. Democrats in states such as Illinois and Maryland have been criticized for drawing maps that favor their party. But the new maps around the country have so far resulted in more safe districts for Republicans. The League of Women Voters' Jen Miller says they're not going down without a fight.

MILLER: This map is unconstitutional because it slices and dices communities purely to unduly favor one political party.

CHOW: A national Democratic group has already filed a lawsuit against the map in the Ohio Supreme Court, with other organizations planning to follow. For NPR News, I'm Andy Chow in Columbus.

(SOUNDBITE OF YEAH YEAH YEAHS SONG, "MAPS")

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