On Wednesday morning (Dec. 8, 2021), a joint coalition of Ohio advocacy groups, including the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Ohio Environmental Council, and the Council of American Islamic Relations-Ohio, rallied for fair maps in front of the Ohio Supreme Court following oral arguments in the three lawsuits filed against Ohio’s illegal, partisan, and extremely gerrymandered maps. The three challenges to the maps are Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, Bria Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, and League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission. The rally predominantly featured Black and Muslim plaintiffs and advocates, whose communities will be denied fair representation due to the illegal legislative maps. 

“Our democracy is in crisis. Folks like my mom, who work six days a week, 12 hours a day in service and caregiving, can't afford for lawmakers to ignore their voices. And she’s just one of countless others, mostly women of color, who deserve to be heard. Fair maps mean that her voice matters as much as the person who lives two or 10 miles from her and earns four times as much. That is how democracy is supposed to work. But right now, the process is broken and it pushes people to the margins, encourages them not to engage, and can even criminalize participation,” said Prentiss Haney, Co-Executive Director, Ohio Organizing Collaborative. Haney is a Cincinnati resident and an individual plaintiff in Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“We are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to listen to the people, give Black and Brown communities our right to meaningfully participate in the political process, and allow voters to choose who gets to represent them at the statehouse - not the representatives choosing their voters. We the people of these United States of America are calling on the Supreme Court to end the legacy of gerrymandering and give the people the power to vote,” said Jeniece Brock, Policy and Advocacy Director, Ohio Organizing Collaborative. 

"Muslim-Americans have made great strides over the last decade in local, state, and federal halls of power. In the face of rampant anti-Muslim sentiment since 9/11 and blatantly discriminatory executive orders of the Trump administration, Muslims across the country have organized to combat racial and religious discrimination. Nonetheless, here in Ohio, severely gerrymandered maps drawn at the expense of minority communities threaten to perpetuate the political exclusion of Muslim voices. Ohioans of every background deserve maps that work for the collective good rather than the interests of one political party. It is now up to the Ohio Supreme Court to ensure that this becomes reality," said Whitney Siddiqi, Community Affairs Director, Council of American Islamic Relations-Ohio (CAIR-Ohio). CAIR is an organizational plaintiff in Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“Ohioans overwhelmingly want clean water, healthy public lands, and increased renewable energy. The past ten years of gerrymandered districts illustrate that without representatives responsive to their whole electorate, rather than one political party, the Ohio statehouse ignores those needs. We get corrupt legislation like House Bill 6 instead. If these maps passed by the Ohio Redistricting Commission are allowed to stand, Ohioans, especially low-income communities of color, will continue facing environmental injustices without adequate representation,” said Chris Tavenor, Staff Attorney, Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). OEC is an organizational plaintiff in Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“Fair maps are important so we can have balanced policy discussions and debates at the state and federal levels, and to ensure that all communities are represented. When maps are gerrymandered to favor one party or another, we’re not able to hear the real pros and cons of policies and legislation because lawmakers get bogged down in partisanship. They’re more concerned about advancing their own political agendas, so they never really get to understand how different communities could be affected,” said Petee Talley, a Toledo resident and an individual plaintiff in Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“As a young Black, progressive woman from Central Ohio. I live and work in Columbus, went to school in Ohio, and regularly volunteer in my community and advocate for the issues I care about. Extreme partisan gerrymandering like what we are fighting against in this suit impacts myself, my community, and those across the state who share  my values or identity. No matter where we work or what we do, how many times we testify, how we vote, many calls we make or emails we send, legislation that will directly affect our lives is already being brokered in back rooms, without our input. That doesn’t stop us, of course. We still keep calling. We still work hard and advocate for change,” said Mikayla Lee, a Columbus resident and an individual plaintiff in Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.

"Gerrymandered districts undermine the economic and political power of poor people, working-class people and people of color. If you don't have economic power, control over your community, good housing or good education, then your ability to grow as a community is stifled. You can get up and go vote for the candidate you believe will represent your interests, but if the district isn’t drawn fairly, your vote doesn’t carry as much weight because the maps have been designed to favor those already in power,” said Sam Gresham, Chair, Common Cause Ohio. Gresham is an individual plaintiff in Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“At the heart of this case aren’t numbers, horse race politics, or Democrats versus Republicans, but people and their communities. Households and individuals that have to live with the policy decisions made in the Capitol building just down the street. The enacted maps entrench a veto-proof Republican supermajority designed to withstand good election years and bad. There is no dispute here about whether the outcomes possible under these maps correspond to preferences of Ohio voters. They don’t,” said Yurij Rudensky, Redistricting Counsel and attorney representing the plaintiffs, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.

“These maps are not fair. I’m asking the Supreme Court to send them back and draw maps that are fair to all Ohioans, regardless of whether you’re Republican or Democrat. We need to pick our politicians and not the other way around. The A. Philip Randolph Institute is going to continue to fight and get the word out about gerrymandering and voter suppression,” said Andre Washington, President, A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), Ohio Chapter. Washington is a plaintiff in League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.

“We’re here today because the people of this state are not done fighting for the fair maps that we deserve. And while Ohio Republicans may have a singular interest in shutting the people out of the political process by passing gerrymandered maps drawn behind closed doors despite our reforms demanding better, we’re here to say that we won’t go quietly into the night when it comes to fighting for our democracy and for a future in Ohio where all of us - no matter who we are or where we come from - stand on equal footing in our ability to elect people who actually represent us. We look forward to the fight ahead,” said Katy Shanahan, Ohio State Director, All On The Line (AOTL). (Note: AOTL is an affiliate of the National Redistricting Action Fund-supported Bria Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.)

Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC) 

The OOC is a grassroots people-centered power organization. We unite base-building community organizing groups, student associations and faith organizations, with labor unions, and policy institutes throughout Ohio. It is our mission to organize everyday Ohioans, building transformative power organizations for racial, social, and economic justice. Our vision is to build a democratic multi-racial populist governing coalition in Ohio. We center people of color, women, and young people in a multiracial and intergenerational organization. Learn more about our work at www.ohorganizing.org