By Brad Brooks
(Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and other voting rights entities asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday to force Republicans to redraw state House of Representatives and Senate redistricting maps.
The ACLU said the new maps, approved in a 5-2 party line vote by the Republican-led Ohio Redistricting Commission last week, were unconstitutional. They argue the maps break voter-approved constitutional reforms passed in the past five years that mandate bipartisan redistricting that reflects overall voter preferences.
The lawsuit says the commission's maps draw 67% of House districts and 69% of Senate districts to favor Republicans - despite Republicans having received between 46% and 60% of the statewide vote during elections in the past decade.
Republicans in Ohio, who control both chambers of the legislature, have justified the commission's map, saying their party has won 13 of 16 statewide contests in the past decade, meaning it won 81% of the time.
"We filed suit in Ohio because it's an extreme partisan gerrymander and a blatant abuse of the people's trust," said Alora Thomas, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
Thomas said the Ohio redistricting maps were part of nationwide Republican efforts to restrict voting rights and use gerrymandering, a tactic used by one political party to manipulate district lines, to maintain power.
The once-a-decade process of redistricting has long been a backroom affair in many states, with lawmakers of both parties carving out skewed, politically advantageous voting districts.
The redistricting battles in states effectively began in August, when the U.S. Census Bureau released data from its 2020 count that states use to draw both U.S. House of Representatives and state legislative districts for the next decade.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Peter Cooney)