On election night two years ago, Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio couldn’t have been more thrilled. “It’s like Christmas,” Turcer said. “I got the best present, and the thing that’s exciting is that this is for all of us.” “This” was an Ohio constitutional amendment to create a seven-member bipartisan redistricting commission. Previously, Ohio saw citizen-backed ballot issues on redistricting that were rejected by voters. But finally, in 2015, this one passed with more than 70 percent of the vote – likely because both Democratic and Republican lawmakers also supported it. One problem: The amendment applied only to state House and state Senate districts. Advocates said Congressional redistricting was next: The current Ohio map has been called one of the most gerrymandered in the country.
That Congressional map was drawn up by Republican legislators six years ago, with the process and the product kept hidden in a downtown Columbus hotel room called “The Bunker.” State-paid Republican consultants worked under the heavy influence of then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner –though technically it’s state lawmakers, not Congress, that builds Ohio’s congressional map.
But the overwhelmingly-Republican legislature approved the map over objections from Democratic lawmakers. That included then-Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern.