Redistricting news from Arkansas and Ohio

Welcome to the Wednesday, January 19, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Redistricting update: Arkansas and Ohio 
  2. Marijuana policy could be on numerous statewide ballots this year
  3. Kentucky statewide filing deadline is Jan. 25

Redistricting update: Arkansas and Ohio 

Redistricting continues apace across the country. As of Jan. 18, 24 states have adopted congressional district maps and 27 states have adopted legislative district maps. 

Today, we’re looking at some recent updates in two states—Arkansas and Ohio. 


Arkansas’ new congressional map went into effect on Jan. 14, 90 days after the state legislature approved revised district boundaries. Although the legislature sent the map to Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) for approval, Hutchinson announced on Oct. 13 he would allow the map to take effect without his signature. 

Under the proposed maps, two of the state’s counties would be split between multiple congressional districts: Sebastian County, which is split between two, and Pulaski County—the state’s most populous county—split between three districts. Opponents of the new boundaries said the division of Pulaski County, where more than 50% of the population identify as other than solely white, was conducted along partisan and racial lines. Supporters said the county’s size and location in the center of the state required the split to reduce the total number of counties being split elsewhere.

Arkansas is the 24th state to enact a new congressional map, which takes effect for the 2022 congressional elections. The statewide filing deadline is March 1.


The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s enacted congressional map in a 4-3 decision on Jan. 14 and ordered the legislature to draw and approve a new map. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed legislation enacting the new boundaries on Nov. 20. However, because the map did not meet the required threshold of bipartisan support in the legislature, it was set to last for four years instead of until after the 2030 census.

A group of Ohio residents and organizations filed lawsuits challenging the congressional map on Nov. 22 and Nov. 30. The suits alleged the maps violated the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and that the plan “unduly favors the Republican Party and its incumbents, while disfavoring the Democratic Party and its incumbents.”

In the majority opinion, Justice Michael P. Donnelly wrote: “When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins. That perhaps explains how a party that generally musters no more than 55 percent of the statewide popular vote is positioned to reliably win anywhere from 75 percent to 80 percent of the seats in the Ohio congressional delegation. By any rational measure, that skewed result just does not add up.” 

In their dissenting opinion, Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Pat Fischer, and Pat DeWine wrote: “The majority today declares the congressional-district plan enacted by the legislature to be unconstitutional on the basis that it ‘unduly’ favors a political party and ‘unduly’ splits governmental units. It does so without presenting any workable standard about what it means to unduly favor a political party or divide a county.”

Ohio Supreme Court judges are elected in nonpartisan general elections. Four current justices were elected after advancing from Republican primaries and three won election after advancing from Democratic primaries. In 2020, we published Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship, a study examining the partisan affiliation of all state supreme court justices in the country as of June 15, 2020. We gave Ohio a Court Balance Score of 7.14, indicating Republican control of the court. Since that date, Democratic-affiliated Justice Jennifer L. Brunner replaced Republican-affiliated Justice Judith French on the Ohio Supreme Court. Although elections for the Ohio Supreme Court are officially nonpartisan, they are preceded by a partisan primary.

You can read our study here, or click below to read more about redistricting in Arkansas, Ohio, and other states.

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Marijuana policy could be on numerous statewide ballots this year

We’re tracking 20 citizen-initiated measures in nine states related to marijuana that could appear before voters in 2022. Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 36 states and D.C.

Here’s a summary of a few of the states where voters could see marijuana on the ballot this year:

  • Arkansas: Voters could decide two marijuana initiatives. One would decriminalize marijuana, give limited immunity to cannabis businesses, and create regulations for the cannabis industry. The other would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 and older regardless of residency. Both campaigns have until July 8 to collect 89,151 valid signatures.
  • Idaho: Kind Idaho filed an initiative to establish a state medical marijuana program. Sponsors attempted to qualify an identical initiative for the 2020 Idaho ballot but suspended their signature-gathering campaign in April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Voters could also decide on an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. The Idaho Way sponsored the initiative. The campaigns need to submit 64,945 valid signatures by May 1.
  • Ohio: Sponsors of an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana submitted an additional 29,918 signatures on Jan. 13, after the secretary of state verified their initial petition contained 119,825 valid signatures–13,062 less than required. If enough of the additional signatures are valid, the initiative will go before the state legislature. If the state legislature does not enact it outright, sponsors will have to collect a second round of 132,887 signatures to place it on the November ballot. In 2015, Ohio voters defeated Issue 3 63.65% to 36.35%.
  • South Dakota: an initiative to legalize marijuana was cleared for signature gathering. In 2020, 54.18% of voters approved Amendment A, which would have legalized marijuana. The state supreme court later ruled the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule and constituted a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment. New Approach South Dakota, which also sponsored the 2020 amendment, filed the current initiative.

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Kentucky statewide filing deadline is Jan. 25

We’re less than one week from the next candidate filing deadline. Kentucky’s filing deadline for candidates seeking to run for office this year is Jan. 25. The deadline was originally Jan. 7, but Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and the Kentucky General Assembly pushed back the date to give themselves more time to enact new state legislative and congressional maps

The deadline applies to candidates running in U.S. Senate and House races, as well as state Senate and state House races. 

The only state whose filing deadline has passed is Texas, where candidates had until Dec. 13 to file. Texas will be holding the earliest primaries of the 2022 election season, scheduled for March 1. Kentucky, Alabama, and West Virginia are among the 12 states holding primaries in May.

After Kentucky, the next deadline for candidates running in state and federal offices will be in Alabama, on Jan. 28, followed by Jan. 29 for candidates in West Virginia. 

The next five filing deadlines for statewide and federal office will be:

  • February 1 (New Mexico)
  • February 2 (Ohio, state-level candidates only)
  • February 4 (Indiana)
  • February 15 (Nebraska)
  • February 22 (Maryland)

Click to read more about Kentucky’s 2022 elections. 

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