May 26, 2022

Ohio Supreme Court invalidates Republican-drawn congressional district map

In a 4-3 decision last week, the Ohio Supreme Court threw out newly-drawn congressional district boundaries in an opinion characterizing the new map as having been unlawfully gerrymandered by Republicans, as Fox News reports.

The Ohio legislature produced the new map when the state’s redistricting committee did not reach an agreement after the 2020 census indicated that a lagging population would force the loss of one congressional seat out of the previous total of 16.

As a result of the ruling, a map that provided the GOP with a distinct advantage in congressional elections for years to come has been invalidated in the face of legal challenges lodged by the National Democratic Redistricting Commission’s legal advocacy arm, the Ohio branch of the League of Women Voters, and the A. Philip Randloph Institute.

Those groups argued that based on the new congressional boundary map, either 12 or 13 of the state’s 15 districts would now tip in favor of Republicans, and given the fact that the GOP only pulled an average of roughly 54% of the vote totals in recent years, the result stood in contravention of a measure approved by voters in 2018 designed to halt partisan gerrymandering.

Writing for the majority of the panel, Justice Michael P. Donnelly explained, according to NBC News, “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.”

The opinion added, “The General Assembly produced a plan that is infused with undue partisan bias and that is incomprehensibly more extremely biased than the 2011 plan that it replaced. This is not what Ohio voters wanted or expected when they approved Article XIX as a means to end partisan gerrymandering in Ohio for good.”

Dissents came from three Republican justices who lamented the lack of clarity surrounding how to assess newly-drawn boundaries and said, “When the majority says that the plan unduly favors the Republican Party, what it means is that the plan unduly favors the Republican Party as compared to the results that would be obtained if we followed a system of proportional representation.”

The decision came just two days after Ohio’s high court also invalidated newly-drawn boundaries for state legislative districts, a process which was undertaken by the Redistricting Commission comprised of five Republicans and two Democrats, as the Daily Caller noted.

As things now stand, the legislature has another 30 days in which it must return to the drawing board and formulate boundaries capable of passing judicial muster, and should representatives fail in that task, the aforementioned commission will have 30 days of its own to finalize a map in advance of primary contests set for May 3.

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