by Andrew Trunsky –
The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s Republican-drawn congressional lines Friday on the grounds that they violated a voter-approved measure intended to limit partisan gerrymandering.
The 4-3 decision scraps a map that would have given Republicans an advantage in the state’s congressional delegation for the next decade, and it comes two days after the court did the same for Ohio’s state legislative lines. Though Republicans hold a majority, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor sided with Democrats, as she did when ruling on the state legislative lines.
“The 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,” Justice Michael Donnelly wrote for the majority.
The state legislature drew the new lines after Ohio’s redistricting commission failed to agree on a new map itself. The new map would have given Republicans at least 12 of the state’s 15 congressional districts, with Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s seat being competitive.
That map also came after Ohio’s outgoing map held strong for the entire decade, without a single congressional seat changing hands from one party to the other. Census data released last year indicated that Ohio would lose a congressional seat due to its relatively slow population growth.
Under the voter-approved measure, the state legislature was barred from passing “a plan that unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents.”
During oral arguments before the court last week, groups urging the map to be tossed focused on Franklin County, which includes Cincinnati. The thrown-out map split the county three ways, ensuring Republican Rep. Steve Chabot an easier path to victory after he was thought to be endangered in 2020.
Chabot’s seat is now the most likely to become endangered, noted Dave Wasserman, a senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
The ruling now means that the legislature will have 30 days to craft new lines that can withstand a court challenge. If they fail to do so, then the approved commission will have its own 30 days to try to create new lines ahead of the state’s May 3 primary elections.
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