A unanimous Ohio Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the attempt of the legislature to add an appropriation to the congressional reapportionment bill, HB 319, did not remove the bill from Ohio’s constitutional right of a referendum.  Earlier this week, Secretary of State Jon Husted and State Attorney General Mike DeWine refused to accept the initial petition of the Ohio Democratic Party and other groups seeking to place the maps on a referendum ballot on the grounds that HB 319 contained an appropriation, and thus was not subject to a referendum.

The Ohio Constitution allows a referendum on all but certain types of laws:

Laws providing for tax levies, appropriations for the current expenses of the state government and state institutions, and emergency laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, shall go into immediate effect. Such emergency laws upon a yea and nay vote must receive the vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each branch of the general assembly, and the reasons for such necessity shall be set forth in one section of the law, which section shall be passed only upon a yea and nay vote, upon a separate roll call thereon. The laws mentioned in this section shall not be subject to the referendum. — Art. II, Sec. 1d.

The Republicans in the General Assembly tried to initially pass HB 319 as an emergency measure to avoid a referendum, but as the Ohio Constitution states, it takes a supermajority of the General Assembly to declare a bill an emergency measure.  The House Democratic Caucus said, “Hmm,  you want our vote for a map that has been blasted statewide as creating only two arguably competitive districts, with ridiculous maps that give Republicans an almost guarantee to hold ten of the sixteen congressional district in Ohio, despite the fact that there are millions more registered Democrats than Republicans in the State?”  Yeah, no thanks.  

So the Senate Republicans had to add an appropriation in order to make HB 319 constitutionally exempt from a referendum.

The Ohio Supreme Court didn’t buy that simply adding an appropriation to a bill exempts it from a referendum as it has recognized that such appropriations are sometimes added to a bill for no other reason that the legislature wants to frustrate the voters’ ability to check their legislative power with the constitutional right of a referendum.

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus compelling Secretary of State Jon Husted “treat Sections 1 and 2 of Sub. H.B. 319 as being subject to the constitutional right of referendum” and to accept the Ohio Democratic Party’s petition summary.  Here’s the full text of the Court’s opinion, including Justice Lanzinger’s interesting concurrence.   Sections 1 and 2 of the bill is the map.

What does this mean?  Well, it means the Republican legislature’s attempt to avoid a voter referendum failed and was declared unconstitutional.  It’s means that the Ohio Democratic Party must get enough signatures within 90 days of Sept. 26, 2011 (i.e. Christmas) to place the bill on the November 2012 ballot.  So for Ohio Democrats, Christmas comes early this year.  At stake?  The possibility of a  more competitive Congressional map in the battleground State of Ohio.

But will voters actually ever vote on HB 319?  Most likely not.  The repeal of HB 319 would result in mass chaos.  Ohio must have a congressional map in place for the November 2012 elections that is not going to be repealed in that election since the number of Congressional seats are changing and the districts must be established.  ODP Chairman Chris Redfern is using the threat of a referendum to force the Republican-controlled legislature back to the drawing board to draw a fair enough map that the Democrats will agree to pass as an emergency measure.

The Republicans, Husted in particular, said that they would change how maps were drawn to be more competitive next time, so they may get their chance to prove it before the 2020 reapportionment cycle.  The only hopes the Republicans have is that either a) ODP doesn’t get a sufficient number of signatures in time, or b) they take their chances with a referendum election and hope they can convince voters that the mass chaos a repeal would cause outweighs the incredible partisan self-serving the map they drawn harms the political environment.   That’s probably too risky for their blood. [UPDATE:]  I should never write a post while watching Saturday Disney cartoons with my son (curse you, Perry the platapus!).  Of course, the second the petition is submitted with enough valid signatures the map is invalid for the 2012 election.  That means the Republican General Assembly has to, at a minimum, pass a new map.  The old map can’t stay in place because the number of districts have changed.  So they’ll have to get it passed as an emergency measure, which will require the two-thirds supermajority.  The question then is, would the GOP push for a supermajority for a “temporary” map that would only exist for the 2012 and be automatically voided if the referendum fails or not.  And will the Democrats go along with only a temporary map.  So, pretty much the only hope the GOP has for keep that map alive is that the Democrats don’t get enough signatures on the petition, even though every Democrat and independent should know that whether there will or won’t be a referendum, a signature on the petition is essentially a vote for a less gerrymandered congressional map in the first place.  And no, this does not impact the state legislative districts.

So, it’s fair to say that the GOP reapportionment map that would almost guarantee the GOP ten out of the sixteen districts in Ohio is on life support, and if in the midst of the Issue 2 campaign, Thanksgiving, and the approaching Christmas season the Democrats can get mobilized enough to get the signatures necessary, the GOP is going to be forced into a bipartisan compromise on the congressional re-apportionment map. 

As Vice-President Joe Biden would say, “This is a BFD.”

  • Wow, when Kasich and Co. can’t even get a  Republican stacked Supreme Court to side with them, that’s saying something… to be UNANIMOUS???….that is a complete REJECTION of everything that Kasich and Co. have done and are trying to do….how many times does the Republican stacked Supreme Court of Ohio have to rule that what Kaisch and Co. have done is UNCONSTITUTIONAL before there are CONSEQUENCES???….apparently the oath that Kasich took to uphold the Constitution of Ohio means absolutely nothing…..Modern, can “we the people” somehow start impeachment proceedings based on Kaisch violating his oath of office?….I know that the current Gang Of Pirates controlled legislature would never allow impeachment proceedings to be initiated by the legislature…..(Ozzy voice)…Ohio’s going off the rails on a crazy train!!!!…..

  • Anastasjoy

    If Republicans decide to take their chances with a repeal referendum, they STILL have to have some type of map in place for next year with only 16 districts. Who would create THAT map? The court? Or would the legislature create a temporary map? Would THAT map have to be an emergency measure requiring 2/3rds approval? How would that work? And I won’t believe Husted’s sincerity about changing the way we draw district lines until he stands up for doing it NOW, not ten years in the future.

  • Anastasjoy

    Unfortunately, Neil, only the legislature can start (and finish) impeachment proceedings and they are his good little soldiers. After all, who actually passed this map? Who added the appropriation to the bill, hoping to make it impervious to repeal? I wasn’t Kasich; it was his legislative water carriers.

  • Anonymous

    Chaos, isn’t that what the rotten R’s and their masters thrive on. In chaos they can steal, namely our money, our rights by way of committing election theft.

    They lie; they win; they break stuff; the gloat that it is broken, lather, rinse, repeat.

    We didn’t vote so it is natural that we get screwed. Maybe it isn’t too late.

    People need to vote especially on or before Nov 8.

    No on 1, 2 & 3.

  • Jrmiller6020

    Modern, Is there anything we can do about the LEGISLATIVE redistricting gerrymandered by the GOP?  Can that subject to a referendum vote as well?…Jim, Columbus

  • PROUD OF THE Ohio Surpreme Court judges..for upholfn the Constitution..Kasich, Hustead, Dewine, n rest of Republican Legislatures should take a lesson /notes..n follow their Democratic Honorable lead…Thank you Ohio Surpreme Court Justices..Thank you…

  • Great questions…anyone know? Greg?

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    Dont you just love it when a plan comes together !! 🙂
    We voted today — 2 no’s for issue 2
    well,, we went to vote because yesterday we recvd a orange card — our voting place changed –again !!
    This is like 3 times in 4 years — makes you wonder what the republicans are doing exactly.
    As we see above they are sure trying to make this state all one flavor. 
    I hope it gets to the point that everything these yahoos do up there goes to a referendum……………

  • Anonymous

    People didn’t vote, now they are.

    Massive fail for the R’s again.

  • Anonymous

    In a democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your Count that votes.  

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    my concern is — with the changing of voting places this close to elections — how many will get aggrivated going betwex and between and just go home without voting.
    I talked to another guy voting from the same town I am from and he said he feels the same. Our voting places were different ,too. The place we were changed to –you have to walk a long way to find it–  before it was in school gym — very simple and handy no hills or curbs.

  • WestParkGuy

    It seems like a map has to be drawn soon. According to HB 319 voters need to be notified of their districts by Feb 2nd, 2012. I also think this is the filing deadline for candidates.If the map goes a referendum then there will be only a month before the deadline. Could the Dems then force the Federal Courts to draw the map?

  • We could always get a constitutional amendment in place requiring some sort of automated drawing of the lines based solely  on Census Bureau data, like they do in Iowa.

  • Anastasjoy

    Filing deadline for the primary is December 7. We’re already having to beat off the army of judicial candidates for next year with clubs. They are trying to organize our county Democratic endorsement meeting for December 8. So chaos has already been created. (Primary is March 6 so people will be early voting by February 2).

  • Anonymous

    I hate to be a naysayer, but getting people out for petition signing for the third time in six months, especially when it’s cold and close to the holidays, is gonna be tough work.  On the other hand, Kasich might not want to risk another colossal failure.  I love the idea of messing with his head!

  • Anonymous

    I prefer SpongeBob SquarePants.

  • Anonymous

    I prefer SpongeBob SquarePants.

  • Any legislation that has the word “emergency” associated with it should be looked at with caution. Emergency basically means the condescending legislators know what’s best, citizen input doesn’t matter, and they are ramming this down your throat whether you like it or not.

    This pack of legislators we have continues to astound me. I think I’d rather have the Hells Angels running the state…at least you could trust them more.  

  • Anastasjoy

    Andy, “emergency” legislature by definition cannot be “rammed down” anyone’s throat because it requires a 2/3rd majority. That will be hard to achieve. And actually, if this map is nullified it IS an emergency, unless you don’t want to have orderly congressional elections where people have any clue what’s going on.

  • Anonymous

    Kasich is nothing but a Confederate with a Northern accent.

  • Anonymous

    Pass these petitions to me, and I WILL sign them.

  • Guest

    Is there any other site, I don’t do facebook?

    Thanks Paula.

  • Anonymous

    Problem with an at-large scenerio is that it would likely be challenged for violating the Voting Rights Act, because it would arguably make it difficult for racial minorities who live in concentrated areas in Ohio to elect a member from their community.  Congresswoman Fudge would likely sue the State of Ohio if it did nothing to prevent an at-large election in 2012.

  • Anonymous

    That was pre-Voting Rights Act, though.

  • You’re missing the point. The point of an “emergency” is to avoid a referendum. To your other comment, based on the people we have in Congress, I’d say people don’t know what is going on in the elections anyway. 

  • You’re missing the point. The point of an “emergency” is to avoid a referendum. To your other comment, based on the people we have in Congress, I’d say people don’t know what is going on in the elections anyway. 

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