New at Bolts Mag:
It’s Groundhog Day in Columbus. After a protracted redistricting battle last year that saw Republicans adopt a relentless barrage of gerrymanders, only to have them repeatedly struck down by the state supreme court, Ohio must again draw new maps in advance of the 2024 elections.
But the cast of characters who will steer the process got reshuffled last week, with two newcomers set to play influential roles.
Meanwhile, the Republican chief justice who had sided with Democrats in last year’s gerrymandering cases exited the stage on Dec. 31.
Some Democrats hope that they secured a new Republican ally—this time in the legislature, where Jason Stephens was unexpectedly elected Speaker thanks to a bipartisan coalition that included all House Democrats—and that this may mitigate the maps’ partisan bias upfront, before they reach judicial review. But once they do, the GOP’s odds of securing favorable rulings for its gerrymanders has shot up dramatically due to a new conservative justice.
“I suspect the political tricks to undermine democracy will go the distance,” said Desiree Tims, the head of Innovation Ohio, a progressive organization that lobbies for fair maps and is part of Ohio’s Equal Districts coalition. “The redistricting process should unfold in a democratic way, which has not been our experience in Ohio.”