Ohio Statehouse

In the past few months, I have renewed my love for all-things Star Wars, watching and re-watching the movies, TV shows, and limited series. While this franchise takes place in a galaxy far, far away, one scene from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith feels as if it is happening in Ohio today. 

As the democratic Republic is transformed into the evil Galactic Empire, amid the rancorous cheering of fellow senators, Senator Padmé Amidala exasperatedly comments, “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.”

While it might seem reductive to apply the events of a science-fiction movie to the politics of our own state, Ohio Republicans have gerrymandered their way to veto-proof supermajorities in the State House and State Senate in a manner that threatens our own democracy. 

In accordance with an amendment to the Ohio Constitution, the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which draws the state legislative districts, is prohibited from creating districts in a way “primarily to favor or disfavor a political party.” Of course, given the partisan bias of the commission with five Republicans and only two Democrats, Republicans were never committed to drawing districts that fairly represented the Ohio electorate.

As evidence of their desire to create biased districts, the Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, without support from either Democrat, approved a map in late 2021 that would allow state Republicans to win at least 60 percent of the seats in the state legislature, which would provide Republicans with a supermajority in both chambers in the Ohio General Assembly. 

Fortunately, the Ohio Supreme Court blocked Republican attempts to gerrymander the state. In a 4-3 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the map adopted by Ohio Republicans did not adhere to the Ohio Constitution. The majority opinion explained that, since the Republican Party “generally musters no more than 55% of the statewide popular vote,” Ohio Republicans cannot constitutionally create a map that all-but guarantees the party supermajorities in the state legislature.

After this ruling, the map-drawing process was again sent back to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. Not having learned from their first-time mistakes, Republicans on the commission attempted to create politically-biased state legislative districts four additional times. Unsurprisingly, and in what feels like repeated moments of déjà vu, the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected all four of the resubmitted maps. 

The court’s continued rejection of these partisan maps has been a triumph for Ohio’s democratic process. However, it has not stopped one of the unconstitutional legislative maps from being used for the 2022 midterm election, since there is no longer enough time to enact a fairer map. On Aug. 2, primary elections were held for the Ohio Legislature using a map that was previously struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court. This unconstitutional map will be used until 2024 when the commission will again be tasked with creating new, unbiased legislative districts.

The blame for the use of an unconstitutional map in the upcoming election can be placed squarely at the feet of the Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission. Following the rejection of their first map at the end of last year, they should have worked with the two Democrats on the commission to create a map that favored neither party. Unfortunately, they were more interested in giving Republicans in the state the best chance to capture as many seats in the legislature as possible.

In creating legislative maps that unfairly benefit their party, the Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission have decided that they are more committed to political power than democracy. They are not interested in the will of Ohio voters; they are interested in statewide political dominance. After the rise of the Galactic Empire in Star Wars, the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi angrily exclaims, “My allegiance is to the Republic, to democracy!” I wish that Ohio Republicans felt the same way.


Zachary Geiger is from Canton, Ohio and is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a part of The Write to Vote Project, which helps students publish op-eds related to voting rights and voting, more generally.

Updated September 21. 2022