The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a fourth set of state legislative maps submitted by the Republican-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission for failing to comply with the state constitution’s anti-gerrymandering requirements.
According to a 4–3 decision made by a panel of judges, Republicans on the commission violated the state’s new redistricting rules by drawing up maps that didn’t follow fairness or proportionality standards.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit—including Democrats, voting rights groups, and other entities—requested the court to draw its own maps once the commission was found to be in contempt of court. However, the judges stated that the court lacks the “constitutional authority” to grant such relief to petitioners.
Of the four judges who rejected the maps, three were Democrats and one was Republican. Time has been extended to May 6 for the commission to come up with a new map. The judgment won’t affect the primary election on May 3. The three dissenting opinions to the verdict were from Republican judges.
Justice Sharon Kennedy, who dissented from the majority, pointed out that Ohio’s new redistricting standards aren’t enforceable. According to redistricting rules, state legislative maps must be drawn in a manner that doesn’t unduly benefit either party.
The new maps should ensure that seats won by both Democrats and Republicans in an election must be proportionate to their seat share in the recent statewide vote. Kennedy also criticized the majority justices for their stance on the issue.
“By adhering to its view of unlimited power, the majority keeps bringing us back to September 2021—the time when these redistricting cases were first filed; we are stuck in a time loop, like the characters in the movie Groundhog Day. The movie, of course, was comedic entertainment, but the outcome of these cases is anything but that for the people of this state,” Kennedy said in the dissenting opinion.
“The majority’s continued denial of the limitation of this court’s power may end up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars—money that is being consumed by the never-ending cycle of map drawing, litigation, and now, two primaries.”
Justice Pat DeWine, another dissenter, also criticized the decision of the majority. He pointed out that the two primary elections in Ohio this year will cost state taxpayers around $20 million to $25 million. His father, Gov. Mike DeWine, sits on the redistricting commission.
“With each iteration of these cases, it becomes more evident that a rogue majority is simply exercising raw political power,” DeWine said. “The majority’s insistence on telling the commission how to do its job is simply more evidence of how far away the majority has gotten from its own.”
A federal court had set an April 20 deadline for the new maps and signaled that it could take over the redistricting process if the state failed to arrive at a solution.
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