COLUMBUS, Ohio ( Associated Press) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday invalidated legislative maps prepared by the GOP, agreeing with voting rights advocates that the lines were unconstitutionally unconstitutional.
In a 4-3 decision, the court sent the map back to the Ohio Redistribution Commission to take another crack at complying with the provisions of the 2015 constitutional amendment. That amendment requires that an effort be made to avoid partisan bias. The judges gave the panel 10 days and retained its jurisdiction to review their actions.
The dispute comes amid the legislative and congressional process of redrawing district maps that states must undertake once per decade to reflect changes from the US Census.
It was the first of the powerful redistribution commission to draw up new legislative maps of the 99 Ohio House and 33 Ohio Senate districts. Its members – five Republicans and two Democrats – failed to reach a bipartisan consensus, so the map they approved on September 16 was set to last only four years instead of 10, along party lines.
It’s not entirely clear what will happen if the commission — which has a poor record of meeting deadlines so far — fails to meet the court’s target date.
Two Democrats on the panel, Sen. Vernon Sykes and Rep. Emilia Sykes, his daughter, said the ruling confirmed Democrats’ argument that the lines were “inappropriate, non-representative and unconstitutional.”
Republican Governor Mike DeWine, a member of the commission and whose son was among Wednesday’s disgruntled judges, promised in a statement to “work with my fellow redistribution commission members on revised maps that are in line with the court order.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Melody Stewart, a Democrat, said the maps favored one party and did not meet the amendment’s standard that districts should be proportionate to reflect Ohio’s 54% Republican, 46% Democratic voter mix. must be properly distributed.
Moderate Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who left the court at age 70 due to age limits on December 31, made a significant swing to join the court’s three Democrats in a victory for national voting-rights and Democratic groups. Vote granted.
Writing separately, O’Connor reminded Ohioans that re-amending their constitution is an option if they think the new system they have established has failed them—either because it has caused non-compliance. -Leaded the secondary maps or, as the minority of the court claims, that it gave. The court does not have the teeth to rule against them. For example, Ohio may have a nonpartisan redistribution commission.
Republicans who controlled the map-drawing process argued that the commission fulfilled its constitutional mandate by following a number of other protocols that made partisan-partisanship and proportionality provisions controversial.
In their dissent, the court’s three remaining Republicans argued that the majority was grasping at “the broad power of judicial review,” which was not available in court under the provisions of the 2015 constitutional amendment.
“The text of the Ohio Constitution is clear, and given the allegations in the complaints, this court does not have authority to act as requested by the petitioners who bring these cases,” Justice Patrick Fisher wrote.
The decision affects three separate lawsuits Against maps brought by Ohio voters by several national groups, including the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, CAIR-Ohio, and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.
Fred Levenson, the legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, said the decision sent a clear message to lawmakers that they “can’t put politics on the people.”
“The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision is huge,” she said in a statement. “It not only commands the immediate drawing of a new, constitutional map, but it also reaffirms Ohio’s voter-enacted constitutional prohibition that partisan gerrymandering is not just ‘aspirational’ — it has real teeth. A good sign for the election cycle – and beyond.”
Alicia Bannon, director of the judiciary program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which helped represent the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits, said the court held the commission accountable.
“The General Assembly maps captured the supremacy of the GOP and flouted the partisan fairness requirements explicitly enshrined in the Ohio Constitution — abuses specifically affecting Ohio’s black, Muslim, and immigrant communities,” he said in a statement. “The commission has now been tasked with making replacement maps. We will be looking to make sure all Ohioans get fair representation.”
After the oral arguments of December 8, the court took more than a month To change its verdict in the matter, adding to the pressure of time on the 2022 elections. The filing date for MLA candidates is February 2.