In 2015 Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a revised Article XI in the Ohio Constitution that was presented to the voters as a means to prevent gerrymandering of Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate Districts. In 2018, the voters overwhelmingly approved Article XIX of the Ohio Constitution, intended to eliminate gerrymandering of US Congressional districts.

The first re-drawing of legislative districts under these revisions of the Ohio Constitution would occur for the 2022 election. What we have learned from the 2022 re-districting is that the Republicans who control state government have decided Ohio voters were just kidding.

Three times, they have created new General Assembly and federal congressional districts for use in 2022 that were approved exclusively by Republicans and that blatantly ignore Articles XI and XIX of the Ohio Constitution. Twice already, the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected those proposed districts and told the Republicans to draw districts in compliance with Ohio law. Ohio Republicans apparently believe the Ohio Supreme Court is just kidding too.

So, where are we? The May 3 primary election is just 56 days away as of this writing. The Republicans’ third effort at gerrymandering both the General Assembly and Ohio’s US Congressional districts is before the Ohio Supreme Court with objections filed.

The Republican majorities in the General Assembly have made it clear they have no intention of changing the date of the May 3 primary. Obviously, Republicans expect the Supreme Court to accept their most recent districts despite the fact that they still violate the Ohio Constitution simply because there is not enough time to create legal districts and still hold a primary election on May 3, 2022. To further illustrate the lunacy, the Republicans adopted Ohio House Bill 93, which makes it legal for candidates to file to run for Congress without saying what district they wish to run in.

Adding to this mess is a federal law called the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act (“UOCAVA”), signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1986. UOCAVA is intended to allow military personnel stationed overseas and other citizens outside the country at the time of an election to vote in their home states. UOCAVA requires states to make ballots available to overseas voters at least 45 days prior to an election. As applied to Ohio’s May 3 primary election, UOCAVA requires primary ballots to go out to over service members overseas by March 18, 2022, ten days from now.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose asked the Department of Defense for a waiver of the UOCAVA deadline. That request was denied because LaRose failed to propose a plan that made it likely overseas voters’ ballots would still be counted in time if those ballots are sent out sometime after March 18. It is difficult not to believe this request for a waiver of the UOCAVA deadline to send out ballots was intended to fail. The only way ballots can be sent to overseas voters by March 18 is if those ballots use the Republicans’ illegal districts.

Just in case the Ohio Supreme Court does not allow the Republicans to achieve a fait accompli, Republican allies filed a lawsuit two weeks ago in federal court in Columbus. That lawsuit seeks to effectively overturn the decisions of the Ohio Supreme Court that the Republicans re-districting has violated the Ohio Constitution. That lawsuit asks the federal court to order that Ohio’s 2022 election be held using the first set of gerrymandered General Assembly and US Congressional districts the Republicans devised. While this case seems to have little or no merit, there may be a right of direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the Republicans don’t get what they want from the federal court in Columbus.

How bad are the latest Republican-created districts? A look at Hamilton County tells you. We all know that Democrats have been a majority in the City of Cincinnati for years and that, for the last several elections, Democrats have also been a majority countywide. All three Hamilton County Commissioners are now Democratic women. Left mainly intact, Hamilton County, the third most populous county in Ohio, would elect a Democrat to Congress. For that reason, Republicans split Hamilton County so that most are in the First District with all of Warren County. The rest of Hamilton County is in the Eighth District with all of Butler, Darke, Miami, and Preble Counties and, for good measure, 28,000 people in Shelby County.

You might reasonably ask what urban Hamilton County voters have in common with voters in suburban/rural Butler and Warren Counties or voters in rural Darke, Miami, Preble and Shelby Counties. The answer is that a minority of Hamilton County voters vote Republican as do the vast majority of voters in those other counties. That urban Hamilton County has different interests to voice in Congress than those other counties cannot be allowed to outweigh the imperative of ensuring that no Democrat represents any part of Southwestern Ohio in Congress. This is, of course, a textbook example of a gerrymander: diluting the Democratic majority of Hamilton County across two districts certain to have Republican majorities.

There are ironies in the fiasco that is Ohio re-districting in 2022. One, however, leaps out at me.  Democrats and non-partisan groups have proposed district maps for the General Assembly and Congress that do comply with the Ohio Constitution. None of those maps would generate a Democratic majority in either house of the General Assembly or in Ohio’s congressional delegation. The Republican majority would just be smaller. That isn’t good enough for Republicans. Like Vladimir Putin looking at Ukraine, anything less than total control is unacceptable and Republicans view any means to maintain their total control as justified.