The second plan of U.S. House districts created by Republicans was dismissed as gerrymandered by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Cleveland, Ohio Tuesday saw the Ohio Supreme Court reject a second Republican-drawn gerrymandered congressional district plan, ordering it to be redone to comply with constitutional requirements endorsed by Ohio voters.
The decision comes amid a succession of judicial setbacks for Ohio's ruling Republicans as states redistrict once every ten years to reflect demographic shifts as a result of the U.S. Census. Despite these legal setbacks, Ohio's 2022 congressional primaries took place on May 3 under a previously void U.S. House map, and its legislative primary will be held on August 2 under a void Statehouse map.
In a 4-3 decision, the court found that the most recent map, which the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved earlier this year without Democratic support, once again violated a constitutional provision intended to stop partisan gerrymandering.
Five Democratic seats and ten safe Republican districts were produced by the map. However, the majority of the high court claimed that the most recent map unfairly divided the counties and cities surrounding the strongly Democratic cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus while "packing" Democrats into three congressional districts that would strongly favor a Democratic candidate.
GOP commissioners described it as their best effort to uphold the Constitution's particular provisions, which are being used for the first time in this decade while avoiding party favor.
A plan that did not "unduly favor" Ohio's governing party would contain at least six Democratic-leaning districts, according to the majority of the justices, leaving nine Republican-leaning districts. The justices acknowledged research done by many election specialists that were employed by the Democratic and voting-rights organizations that had challenged the maps.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly will have 30 days to take action after the decision, which sends the map back to them.
The redistricting body, whose numerous designs of the parliamentary and congressional districts have not yet withstood court scrutiny, will take up the issue once more if politicians fail.
The Supreme Court was granted original and exclusive jurisdiction by voters, therefore the attorney general of Ohio, who represents the Redistricting Commission, is not permitted to appeal.
Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat DeWine, the son of Gov. Mike DeWine, who is on the redistricting panel, dissented because the majority's interpretation of the constitution's definition of "unduly favors" is flawed. They said that the constitution does not even list proportional party participation as "an aspirational goal," let alone "a requirement."
According to the dissenters, the ruling "shows that the majority has once again assumed an excessive role in the process of designing a congressional-district plan by sustaining its criteria of what constitutes 'unduly favoring' a political party."
Justice Pat Fischer stated in a separate dissent that the state's top court ought to act as a "trial court" in such cases, but claimed that didn't happen during this initial use of Ohio's new map-making procedure.
The court's three Democrats and moderate Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who is 70 years old and must retire from the bench by December 31 owing to age restrictions, once again contributed a crucial swing vote. O'Connor had sided with the Democrats in the decision to reject the initial congressional district map.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio agrees that the districts are "rigged for politicians rather than being created to preserve Ohioans' rights to have meaningful elections," according to Jen Miller, executive director of the organization. ” She expressed their desire for mapmakers to "take the Ohio Constitution seriously and produce maps that are truly fair for the people of Ohio."
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