Ohio Supreme Court rejects GOP-drawn congressional map

  • FILE—Members of the Ohio Senate Government Oversight Committee hear testimony on a new map of state congressional districts in this file photo from Nov. 16, 2021, at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. On Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a new map of the state's 15 congressional districts as gerrymandered, sending the blueprint back for another try. The 4-3 decision returns the process to the powerful Ohio Redistricting Commission. (AP Photo/Julie Carr... Julie Carr Smyth

  • FILE—A map of Ohio congressional districts sits on display during a committee hearing at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio in this file photo from Nov. 16, 2021. On Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a new map of the state's 15 congressional districts as gerrymandered, sending the blueprint back for another try. The 4-3 decision returns the process to the powerful Ohio Redistricting Commission. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth, File) Julie Carr Smyth

  • FILE—Freda Levenson, ACLU of Ohio legal director, appears before the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus, Ohio, during oral arguments in a constitutional challenge to new legislative district maps in this file photo from Dec. 8, 2021. On Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a new map of the state's 15 congressional districts as gerrymandered, sending the blueprint back for another try. The 4-3 decision returns the process to the powerful Ohio Redistricting Commission.... Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press
Published: 1/14/2022 9:57:41 PM
Modified: 1/14/2022 9:56:48 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s Republican-drawn congressional map was rejected by the state’s high court Friday, giving hope to national Democrats who had argued it unfairly delivered several potentially competitive seats in this year’s critical midterm elections to Republicans.

In the 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court returned the map to the Ohio General Assembly, where Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers, and then to the powerful Ohio Redistricting Commission. The two bodies have a combined 60 days to draw new lines that comply with a 2018 constitutional amendment against gerrymandering.

The commission was already in the process of reconstituting so it can redraw GOP-drawn legislative maps the court also rejected this week as gerrymandered. That decision gave the panel 10 days to comply.

With Feb. 2 and March 4 looming as the filing dates for legislative and congressional candidates, respectively, the decisions have raised questions of whether the state’s May 3 primary may have to be extended.

Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Paduchik called the situation a mess, criticizing the Ohio Supreme Court for giving the commission less than two weeks to come up with new legislative maps.

“That’s a lot to dump on a commission with a very short period of time,” he said during a forum at the City Club of Cleveland on Friday. “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen.”

Justices chastised Republicans in both decisions for flouting the voters’ wishes and the Constitution and directed them to move with haste.

Writing for the majority, Justice Michael Donnelly wrote, ”(T)he evidence in these cases makes clear beyond all doubt that the General Assembly did not heed the clarion call sent by Ohio voters to stop political gerrymandering.”

Donnelly and the court’s other two Democrats were joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a moderate Republican set to depart the court due to age limits at the end of the year.

The court’s three other Republicans — including Justice Pat DeWine, son of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, a named plaintiff in the cases — dissented.

They said it was unclear how it should be determined that a map “unduly favors” one party over another.

However, plaintiffs praised the ruling. “The manipulation of districts is the manipulation of elections and voters have had enough,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, a plaintiff.

“We expect legislative leaders to learn from their mistakes and finally listen to the people’s call for fair maps.”

Ohio and other states were required to redraw their congressional maps to reflect results of the 2020 census, under which Ohio lost one of its current 16 districts due to lagging population.

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Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.


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