Prof. Justin Levitt's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

Ohio

State Summary

As of 2018, Ohio’s legislature has the first opportunity to draw congressional lines, by supermajority.  If it cannot, the process falls to a 7-member backup politician commission.  If that commission also fails, then the lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.  Lines passed by supermajority or by the backup commission are valid for ten years; lines passed as normal legislation are valid only for two general elections.

Ohio’s state legislative lines are drawn by a 7-member politician commission.  Bipartisan maps are valid for ten years; lines passed with a simple partisan majority are valid only for two general elections.

In the 2010 cycle, Ohio’s legislature had responsibility for passing congressional lines, as a normal statute.  Ohio’s legislature passed a congressional plan (HB 319) on Sept. 21, 2011, which was signed on Sept. 26, 2011.  After a referendum threat, on Dec. 14, 2011, the state legislature passed a revised congressional plan (HB 369), which was signed the next day.  Ohio’s politician commission passed state Senate and state House lines on on Sept. 28, 2011, on a partisan vote.

A voter initiative to change the redistricting process for 2021 qualified for the Nov. 2012 ballot; there was litigation over the ballot language, and a complaint before the Ohio Elections Commission regarding allegedly false statements in a campaign flyer with respect to the measure. The measure was ultimately defeated in the 2012 general election.  In 2015, HJR 12 amended the process for drawing state legislative lines; in 2018, SJR 5 amended the process for drawing congressional districts.

 

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Key Info for 2000 Cycle

Primary governing law

Key Info for 2010 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Key Info for 2020 Cycle

Primary governing law

Ohio Const. art. XI, XIX

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Institution

As of 2018 (SJR 5), the Ohio legislature has the first opportunity to draw Ohio’s congressional lines, by a 3/5 supermajority, including votes of half of each major party in each chamber.  If that fails, the process falls to a seven-member backup commission, comprising the Governor, State Auditor, Secretary of State, and one commissioner chosen by each of the legislative leadership (majority and minority leader in each legislative house); plans must pass with the votes of at least two members affiliated with each major party.  If the commission can’t pass a plan, the state legislature may pass a congressional plan with a simple majority, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.  Maps that are passed by a 3/5 supermajority of the legislature or by bipartisan approval of the commission are valid for ten years; maps passed by normal legislation are valid for two general elections.  [Ohio Const. art. XIX, § 1]

Ohio’s state legislative lines are drawn by the same seven-member politician commission, in place since 1967 and modified in 2015 (HJR 12), that serves as the backup for congressional districts, above.  The commission consists of the Governor, State Auditor, Secretary of State, and one commissioner chosen by each of the legislative leadership (majority and minority leader in each legislative house).  Plans must normally pass with the votes of at least two members affiliated with each major party, but if the commsision deadlocks, it may pass a plan by majority vote.  Maps that are passed with the votes of two members affiliated with each major party are valid for ten years; maps passed by majority vote are valid for two general elections.  [Ohio Const. art. XI, §§ 1, 8]

Ohio law continues to provide that both processes are aided by a 6-member advisory commission. The state Senate and state House majority leaders each appoint three members, at least one of whom must be from a different party, and at least one of whom must not be a legislator. [Ohio Rev. Code § 103.51]

The Ohio Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear challenges to congressional and state legislative lines filed in state court.  If a plan is declared invalid, the appropriate body (or bodies) above will have an opportunity to redraw legal districts.  Normally, if districts are invalidated, new districts may be redrawn only to the extent necessary to remedy the legal infirmity; if a court invalidates at least two state Senate or six state House districts, or if a state legislative plan passed by a simple majority of the commission has legal infirmities that also leave a partisan imbalance with the statewide voters’ preferences, the commission may redraw the state legislative plan as a whole.  [Ohio Const. art. XI, § 9; art. XIX, § 3]

Timing

For congressional lines, the legislature has until Sept. 30, 2021, to draw by 3/5 supermajority; if that fails, the backup commission has until Oct. 31, 2021, to draw its bipartisan map; if that fails, the legislature has until Nov. 30, 2021, to approve a final plan.  [Ohio Const. art. XIX, § 1]   Candidates must file for congressional primary elections by Feb. 2, 2022. [Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3501.01, 3513.05]

For state legislative lines, the commission has until Sept. 1, 2021, to pass a plan with the votes of at least two members affiliated with each major party; if that fails, the commission has until Sept. 15, 2021, to pass a plan by majority vote.  [Ohio Const. art. XI, §§ 1, 8]  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by Feb. 2, 2022. [Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3501.01, 3513.05]

Unless a plan is passed by a bare majority, and valid only for two general elections, Ohio law prohibits redrawing congressional and state legislative districts mid-decade, before the next Census. [Ohio Const. art. XI, XIX]

Public input

Ohio law requires the state legislature to hold at least two public hearings, and accept proposals from the public, before any legislative action to pass a congressional plan.  The commission, similarly, must hold at least three public hearings after introducing a draft state legislative plan; if a plan cannot gain the support of at least two members affiliated with each major party, the commission must hold an additional hearing on any plan to be passed by majority vote.  [Ohio Const. art. XI, §§ 1(C), 8; art. XIX, § 1(G)-(H)]

If the legislature adopts a congressional plan as normal legislation, by majority vote, it must issue a statement explaining compliance with the special criteria governing undue partisan advantage and political subdivision splits described below.  [Ohio Const. art. XIX, § 1(C)(3)(d)]

If the commission adopts a state legislative plan by majority vote, it must issue a statement articulating the statewide partisan preferences of the electorate, and the fit of districts statewide to that overall partisan preference.  [Ohio Const. art. XI, § 1(C)(2)]

Criteria

Like all states, Ohio must comply with constitutional equal population requirements.

Ohio must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

Ohio law further requires that congressional districts be contiguous and compact.  Districts must preserve political units according to very specific rules.  If a city is big enough to contain more than one district, the redistricting body must attempt to include a significant portion of that city in one district, and may include other residents with similar interests; if the biggest city in a county is smaller than one district but has more than 100,000 people, it may not be split.  65 counties must be entirely within a district (and each district should have at least one whole county if possible), 18 counties may be split once, 5 counties may be split twice, and no counties may be split more than twice; and the portion of any congressional district that splits a county must be contiguous within that county.  Finally, no two districts can spread over the same two counties, unless the county has more than 400,000 people. [Ohio Const, art. XIX, § 2]

Any congressional plan passed as legislation, by simple majority, must also not unduly favor or disfavor a party or incumbents, and must not unduly split counties, townships, and cities, in that order; such plans also relax the requirement that districts be compact.  [Ohio Const, art. XIX, § 1(C)(3)]

Ohio law specifies that each state legislative district must be within ±5 percent of the average population, and contiguous.  State House districts must also be created in a specific order: first divide the biggest counties into districts based on the average population, with any remaining fraction of a county in just one district.  Then each county within  ±5 percent of the average population becomes its own district.  Then draw districts in the rest of the state, trying to split each county at most once, splitting the fewest cities between half of an average district’s population and the average population, and splitting not more than one city per district.  If the above isn’t possible, the commission has to try creating districts by splitting two small or large cities, then by splitting incremental midsize cities, then by splitting midsized counties, then by splitting the remaining fraction of a county with multiple districts — and must specifically explain the result.  [Ohio Const. art. XI, § 3]

State House districts must be nested within state Senate districts, so that each Senate district is made up of three House districts. State Senate districts must also preserve county boundaries when possible. [Ohio Const. art. XI, § 4]

The state legislative plan, as a whole, may not be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a party, and the partisan district alignment should “correspond closely” to statewide partisan preferences.  Districts should also be compact.  [Ohio Const. art. XI, § 6]

 

2010 cycle

Ohio’s legislature passed a congressional plan (HB 319) on Sept. 21, 2011, which was signed on Sept. 26, 2011.  The law purported to limit the opportunity to file a referendum on the maps, but on Oct. 14, 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court allowed the possibility of a referendum to the plan, with signatures (from 6% of the state’s electors) due by Dec. 25, 2011.  [State ex rel. Ohioans for Fair Districts v. Husted, 130 Ohio St. 3d 240 (2011)]  On Dec. 14, 2011, the state legislature passed a revised congressional plan (HB 369), which was signed the next day.

Ohio’s politician commission passed state Senate and state House lines on on Sept. 28, 2011, on a partisan vote.

The congressional plan was challenged in federal court, and the state legislative plans were challenged in state court; both were upheld.  [Ohio A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Householder, 373 F. Supp. 3d 978 (S.D. Ohio 2019), vacated by 140 S. Ct. 101 (2019); Wilson v. Kasich, 134 Ohio St.3d 221 (2012)]

2000 cycle

The legislature passed a congressional plan (HB 471), which was signed on Jan. 24, 2002.

Ohio’s commission enacted state legislative lines on Oct. 1, 2001.

The state legislative plan was challenged in federal court, and upheld. [Parker v. Ohio, 263 F. Supp. 2d 1100 (S.D. Ohio 2003), aff’d, 540 U.S. 1013]

Redistricting Cases in Ohio

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National | Ohio | Federal Trial | Process
Ohio v. Coggins
PENDING - Federal court challenge to Census release date for 2020 redistricting data
Last Updated Feb 25, 2021
Case Number

No. 3:21-cv-00064 (S.D. Ohio)

Cycle 2020