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Politics

Ohio Supreme Court once again rules new legislative district maps are unconstitutional

Daniel Konik
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Once again, the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed with the objections by the plaintiffs in the initial challenge against the new legislative district maps and say the plans still violate the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the state constitution.

The new maps, approved last month, created 57 Republican and 42 Democratic districts in the Ohio House and 20 Republican districts to 13 Democratic districts in the Ohio Senate.

Opponents of those new plans said the Ohio Redistricting Commission still failed to meet the state's constitutional requirement for maps to reflect the partisan voter preference of Ohio. Over the past 10 years, Ohio voters have split about 54% Republican and 46% Democratic in statewide elections.

"They made maps that were once again gerrymandered. Bottom line, voters will be best served when the maps fairly represent them and are not sliced and diced simply for partisan outcomes," says Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

Republican members of the commission, including Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), said they were reviewing the Supreme Court's ruling.

It was a 4-3 ruling in the Ohio Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, joining Democratic Justices Jennifer Brunner, Michael Donnelly, and Melody Stewart to sustain the objections from the plaintiffs.

The majority opinion, which all four signed, read in part: “Throughout the process, the Republican map drawers refused to expressly work toward a 54 to 46 percent partisan share. Yet that is not a 'superficial ratio,' a 'Democratic ratio,' or an 'arbitrary percentage,' as one commissioner cavalierly dismissed it. Rather, as we made clear in [the earlier ruling in the case], it is a foundational ratio created not by this court or by any particular political party but instead etched by the voters of Ohio into our Constitution."

The remaining Republicans Justices — Sharon Kennedy, Patrick Fischer, and Patrick DeWine — dissented, all saying that the Ohio Supreme Court doesn't have the authority to oversee the redistricting process.

In their dissent, Kennedy and DeWine wrote: "It is apparent that in disregard of constitutional standards, four members of this court have now commandeered the redistricting process and that they will continue to reject any General Assembly-district plan until they get the plan they want. It would simplify matters if the commission would just provide the majority with the map-drawing software, Maptitude, so that they can draw the map themselves. At this point, one must wonder which seven-member body is the true redistricting commission—the constitutionally named officers or this court?"

The breakdown in this ruling is the same as when the maps were thrown out the first time last month.

This ruling on the second attempt on the maps came with a detailed timeline for the Ohio Redistricting Commission to follow. The mapmaking panel must adopt a new House and Senate map by the end of February 17. Then a copy must be filed with the Supreme Court by 9 a.m. on February 18.

Plaintiffs will have until 9 a.m. three days after the plan is filed with the court to raise any objections to what will be the third attempt at drawing the 99 Ohio House seats and 33 Ohio Senate seats.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.