Ohio Redistricting Cases: the 1990s

Voinovich v. Ferguson63 Ohio St.3d 198 (1992)

The Ohio Supreme Court in a per curium decision found the challenged Senate District 22 to be constitutional. In Ohio, each senate district is comprised of three house of representatives districts. Each senate or house of representatives district ideally represents equal populations; a ratio of representation between the legislator and the number of persons in the district. Section 4, Article XI of the Ohio Constitution prohibits creation of a district containing less than 95 percent of the ideal senate ratio of representation, and the district in question deviated further, containing only 93.99 percent of the ideal senate ratio. Section 9 of Article XI of the Ohio Constitution provides that where the population of a county is at least 90 percent of a house of representatives ratio of representation, "reasonable effort shall be made to create a house district consisting of the whole county." Section 11 provides that "counties having less than one senate ratio of representation, but at least one house of representatives ratio of representation shall be part of only one senate district." The Ohio Supreme Court held that Sections 4, 9, and 11 of Article XI of the Ohio Constitution are coequal. When these provisions are irreconcilable, the Ohio Apportionment Board has the duty to choose the proper course, and the Ohio Supreme Court declined to require the Apportionment Board to correct one constitutional violation by committing another.

Quilter v. Voinovich, 794 F. Supp. 695 (N.D. Ohio 1992)

The District Court held that section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (hereafter "the Voting Rights Act") does not mandate the drawing of majority-minority districts wherever there is a concentration of Black voters. Because the Apportionment Board failed to conduct an adequate totality of the circumstances analysis as is required by the Voting Rights Act, the Apportionment Board made no reliable finding of a past violation that would support the creation of majority-minority districts. The District Court ordered the Apportionment Board to reconsider the legislative apportionment plan. Unless the Apportionment Board could show justification for the plan under the totality of the circumstances test, the District Court would require the Board to submit a revised plan.

Quilter v. Voinovich794 F. Supp. 756 (N.D. Ohio 1992)

After the Apportionment Board submitted additional documentation and a revised plan, the District Court held that the Apportionment Board failed to justify its wholesale creation of majority-minority districts and so violated the Voting Rights Act. The District Court ordered a special master be appointed to draw a constitutional apportionment plan and enjoined any election for the Ohio General Assembly until the special master drew a constitutional plan and the plan was approved by the District Court. The District Court ordered that the 1992 primary election be moved from May 5, 1992, to June 5, 1992.

Voinovich v. Quilter503 U.S. 979 (1992)

The United States Supreme Court stayed the 794 F. Supp. 756 District Court order, pending final disposition of the appeal of the District Court's judgment to the United States Supreme Court.

Quilter v. Voinovich, 794 F. Supp. 760 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 31, 1992)

The District Court rescheduled the 1992 primary date to September 8, 1992.

Quilter v. Voinovich, 794 F. Supp. 760 (N.D. Ohio May 5, 1992)

In this opinion, the District Court had to determine what legislative districts Ohio should use for the 1992 elections. The District Court held that the changes in the Apportionment Board's revised plan were so extensive that it constituted a new plan (hereafter "the 1992 plan"). The special master had submitted a plan that, because of the pending appeal to the United States Supreme Court, was sealed but not reviewed. The District Court concluded that the 1981 districts, the districts under the 1991 plan, and the districts under the 1992 plan were all inadequate. The District Court held that Ohio should use the 1992 plan until a legally flawless plan could be found. The District Court ordered elections officials to truncate the deadlines in the Elections Laws as needed to conduct the 1992 primary election using June 2, 1992, as the primary date.

Voinovich v. Quilter507 U.S. 146 (1993)

The United States Supreme Court held that the 1991 plan did not violate section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The District Court erred in failing to determine the consequences of the plan before ruling on its validity. The District Court also erred in placing the burden of proving the validity of the 1991 plan on the proponents of the plan. The Voting Rights Act places this burden on the opponents of the plan. While federal courts cannot order the creation of majority-minority districts without a Voting Rights Act violation, this prohibition does not apply to the states. The District Court's holding that the 1991 plan violated the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is erroneous; the preference of the drafter of the plan for federal law over state law when the two appeared to conflict demonstrated obedience to the Supremacy Clause. Although the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case that the disparity among the districts violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the District Court used an improper standard for determining whether the deviation from equal population violated Equal Protection guarantees. The Supreme Court remanded the case to determine whether the disparity is justified under the appropriate standard.

Quilter v. Voinovich857 F. Supp. 579 (N.D. Ohio 1994)

On remand, the District Court found that the population variations were justified under established constitutional standards. The District Court noted that whether a prima facie case of an Equal Protection violation is established depends principally on deviation from mathematical equality among legislative districts. A deviation of 0 percent to 10 percent is de minimis and no prima facie case of an Equal Protection violation exists. When the deviation exceeds 10 percent, there is a prima facie case of an Equal Protection violation, and the state must justify the legislative districts by: (1) articulating a rational state policy justifying the deviations, (2) explaining how the apportionment plan rationally advances the state policy, and (3) showing that the deviation does not exceed constitutional limits. The District Court concluded that the 1991 plan did not violate the one-person, one-vote guarantee of the Equal Protection Clause, as a genuine, rational state policy of preserving county lines was advanced to justify deviation from population equality among districts. The 1991 plan reasonably furthered that policy, particularly as all whole counties within applicable population limits had been preserved, and total deviation of 13.81 percent for house districts and 10.54 percent for senate districts fell within constitutional limits.

Quilter v. Voinovich157 F.R.D. 36 (N.D. Ohio 1994)

On the same day as the court issued the preceding opinion, the District Court granted the plaintiffs' motion to file a second amended complaint, noting that the plaintiffs may have a meritorious constitutional claim under Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993).

Quilter v. Voinovich912 F. Supp. 1006 (N.D. Ohio 1995)

The District Court noted that under Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993), a plaintiff challenging an apportionment plan under the Equal Protection Clause may state a claim of racial gerrymandering by alleging that the plan, although race-neutral on its face, rationally cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to separate voters into different districts on the basis of race, and that the separation lacks sufficient justification. An apportionment plan will be subjected to strict scrutiny if the plaintiff shows that race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature's decision to place a large number of voters within or without a legislative district and that the legislature subordinated traditional race-neutral districting principles (compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivisions) to racial considerations by either violating or abandoning traditional districting principles in favor of racial motivations or by substantially complying with traditional districting principles but giving them less weight than racial considerations. Although a state does not have to await a judicial finding that it has committed racial discrimination before it voluntarily takes remedial action to eradicate the discrimination, it must have a strong basis in evidence for its conclusion that remedial action was necessary. The District Court considered whether the 1991 plan, in creating "majority-minority" or "packed" districts, created more "majority-minority" districts than reasonably necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act and whether the "majority-minority" districts contained substantially larger concentrations of minority voters than reasonably necessary to give minority voters a realistic opportunity to elect representatives of their choice in those districts. The District Court concluded that the "majority-minority" districts contained in the 1991 plan contained unnecessarily large concentrations of minority voters and that the 1991 plan had the reciprocal effect of reducing minority influence in other districts. Because the state failed to provide a legally cognizable justification for the "packing" of minorities in the "majority-minority" districts, the 1991 plan failed strict scrutiny analysis. The District Court ordered the "majority-minority" districts to be redrawn.

Voinovich v. Quilter, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 2542, 135 L.Ed.2d 1064 (1996)

The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the District Court located at 912 F. Supp. 1006 and remanded the case for further consideration in light of Bush v. Vera, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 1941, 135 L.Ed.2d 248 (1996), and Shaw v. Hunt, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 1894, 135 L.Ed.2d 207 (1996).

Quilter v. Voinovich, ___ F. Supp. ___, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17251, 1997 WL 687725 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 22, 1997)

On remand, the District Court held that the plaintiffs, including plaintiffs who were members of the Apportionment Board, did not have standing to challenge a number of the 1991 plan's districts because the plaintiffs neither resided in those districts nor produced specific evidence that they personally had been subjected to a racial classification in relation to the drawing of those districts. For the remaining districts, the District Court applied the analysis derived from Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993); Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900 (1995); Shaw v. Hunt, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 1894, 135 L.Ed.2d 207 (1996); and Bush v. Vera, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 1941, 135 L.Ed.2d 248 (1996), and found that, although race was a substantial factor in drawing the challenged districts, it was not a dominant and controlling rationale to which traditional districting principles (compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivisions) were subordinated. Race was a factor that was considered within the constraints of traditional districting principles, and so strict scrutiny of the challenged districts was not appropriate. Under rational basis scrutiny, the Apportionment Board had a rational basis for creating the challenged districts, and so there was no violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

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