Normal people were shocked when they heard about the 10-year old girl in Ohio who was raped, became pregnant, and was forced to travel to Indiana to get an abortion because Ohio’s new forced-birth law doesn’t have an exception for rape. From a long article by Jane Mayer for The New Yorker:
[Ohio’s] residents tend to be politically moderate, and polls consistently show that a majority of Ohio voters support legal access to abortion…. Yet, as the recent ordeal of a pregnant ten-year-old rape victim has illustrated, Ohio’s state legislature has become radically out of synch with its constituents….
Longtime Ohio politicians have been shocked by the state’s transformation into a center of extremist legislation, not just on abortion but on such divisive issues as guns and transgender rights. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who served as governor between 2007 and 2011, told me, “The legislature is as barbaric, primitive, and Neanderthal as any in the country. It’s really troubling”…. The story is similar in several other states with reputations for being moderate, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania: their legislatures have also begun proposing laws so far to the right that they could never be passed in the U.S. Congress…..
A 2020 survey indicated that less than fourteen per cent of Ohioans support banning all abortions without exceptions for rape and incest…. But the Democrats in the Ohio legislature had no way to mount resistance: since 2012, the Republicans have had a veto-proof super-majority in both chambers….
… The General Assembly’s increasingly radical Republican majority is poised to pass even more repressive restrictions … when it returns from a summer recess. State Representative Gary Click … has proposed a “Personhood Act,” which would prohibit any interference with embryonic development from the moment of conception, unless the mother’s life is endangered. If the bill passes, it could outlaw many kinds of contraception, not to mention various practices commonly used during in-vitro fertilization.
[David Niven, a University of Cincinnati professor,] told me that, according to one study, the laws being passed by Ohio’s statehouse place it to the right of the deeply conservative legislature in South Carolina. How did this happen, given that most Ohio voters are not ultra-conservatives? “It’s all about gerrymandering,” Niven told me.
The legislative-district maps in Ohio have been deliberately drawn so that many Republicans effectively cannot lose, all but insuring that the Party has a veto-proof super-majority. As a result, the only contests most Republican incumbents need worry about are the primaries—and, because hard-core partisans dominate the vote in those contests, the sole threat most Republican incumbents face is the possibility of being outflanked by a rival even farther to the right.
The national press has devoted considerable attention to the gerrymandering of congressional districts, but state legislative districts have received much less scrutiny, even though they are every bit as skewed, and in some states far more so. “Ohio is about the second most gerrymandered statehouse in the country,” Niven told me. “It doesn’t have a voter base to support a total abortion ban, yet that’s a likely outcome.” He concluded, “Ohio has become the Hindenburg of democracy.”
David Pepper, an election-law professor, has a book, “Laboratories of Autocracy,” whose title offers a grim spin on a famous statement, attributed to the Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, calling America’s state legislatures “laboratories of democracy”…. He is determined to get the Democratic political establishment to stop lavishing almost all its money and attention on U.S. House, Senate, and gubernatorial races … and to focus more energy on what he sees as a greater emergency: the collapse of representative democracy in one statehouse after another.
Unquote. The article discusses how inattention to local politics has allowed right-wing extremists to take control of state legislatures, assisted by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and how lower court decisions have been ignored:
Swept out of power in Washington, the Republican Party’s smartest operatives decided to exploit the only opening they could find: the possibility of capturing state legislatures in the 2010 midterm elections. They knew that, in 2011, many congressional and local legislative districts would be redrawn based on data from the 2010 census—a process that occurs only once a decade. If Republicans reshaped enough districts, they could hugely advantage conservative candidates, even if many of the Party’s policies were unpopular.
In 2010, the Supreme Court issued its controversial Citizens United decision, which allowed dark money to flood American politics. Donors, many undisclosed, soon funneled thirty million dollars into the Republicans’ redistricting project, called REDMAP, and the result was an astonishing success: the Party picked up nearly seven hundred legislative seats, and won the power to redraw the maps for four times as many districts as the Democrats….
The Ohio statehouse has grown only more lopsided in the past decade. Currently, the Republican members have a 64–35 advantage in the House and a 25–8 advantage in the Senate. This veto-proof majority makes the Republican leaders of both chambers arguably the most powerful officeholders in the state….
The vast majority of Ohio residents clearly want legislative districts that are drawn more fairly. By 2015, the state’s gerrymandering problem had become so notorious that seventy-one per cent of Ohioans voted to pass an amendment to the state constitution demanding reforms. As a result, the Ohio constitution now requires that districts be shaped so that the makeup of the General Assembly is proportional to the political makeup of the state. In 2018, an even larger bipartisan majority—seventy-five per cent of Ohio voters—passed a similar resolution for the state’s congressional districts.
Though these reforms were democratically enacted, the voters’ will has thus far been ignored…. [Republicans] proposed districts [that] were nowhere near proportional to the state’s political makeup. The Democrats argued that the Republicans had flagrantly violated the reforms that had been written into the state constitution.
This past spring, an extraordinary series of legal fights were playing out. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the map—and then struck down four more, after the Republican majority on the redistricting commission continued submitting maps that defied the spirit of the court’s orders…. The Republicans’ antics lasted so long that they basically ran out the clock. Election deadlines were looming, and the makeup of Ohio’s districts still hadn’t been settled. … A federal court [was asked] to intervene, on the ground that the delay was imperiling the fair administration of upcoming elections. The decision was made by a panel of three federal judges—two of whom had been appointed by T____. Over the strenuous objection of the third judge, the two T___ judges ruled in the group’s favor, allowing the 2022 elections to proceed with a map so rigged that Ohio’s top judicial body had rejected it as unconstitutional.
On Twitter, Bill Seitz, the majority leader of the Ohio House, jeered at his Democratic opponents: “Too bad so sad. We win again. The game is over and you lost.”
Ohio Democrats, including David Pepper, are outraged. “The most corrupt state in the country was told more than five times that it was violating the law, and then the federal court said it was O.K.,” he told me. “If you add up all the abnormalities, it’s a case study—we’re seeing the disintegration of the rule of law in Ohio. They intentionally created an illegal map, and are laughing about it.”
[A Democratic legislator] likens the Republicans’ stunning contempt for the Ohio Supreme Court to the January 6th insurrection: “People are saying, ‘Where is the accountability when you disregard the rule of law and attack democracy?’ Because that’s what’s happening in the statehouses, and Ohio is a perfect example.”
Unquote. Ohio isn’t the only state where this has happened. From The New York Times:
Since January, judges in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio have found that Republican legislators illegally drew those states’ congressional maps along racial or partisan lines, or that a trial very likely would conclude that they did. In years past, judges who have reached similar findings have ordered new maps, or had an expert draw them, to ensure that coming elections were fair.
But a shift in election law philosophy at the Supreme Court, combined with a new aggressiveness among Republicans who drew the maps, has upended that model for the elections in November. This time, all four states are using the rejected maps, and questions about their legality for future elections will be hashed out in court later.