State Watch

Ohio Supreme Court, for third time, rejects GOP’s state legislative map

The Ohio Supreme Court for the third time rejected state legislative maps drawn by Republicans, a move that will likely postpone the state’s primaries currently scheduled for May 3.

The state Supreme Court ruled in a late Wednesday decision that the map was unfairly drawn to favor the GOP. The decision was a 4-3 split, with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor siding with the court’s three Democrats, and centered on the fact that the maps were drawn by staffers for state House Speaker Bob Cupp (R) and Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R). 

On top of that, districts that were supposedly Democratic-friendly were in reality more competitive. For instance, of the Democratic-leaning districts, 26 favor the party by no more than 3 percentage points, a margin the justices said made them more akin to toss-up districts.

“The evidence shows that the individuals who controlled the map-drawing process exercised that control with the overriding intent to maintain as much of an advantage as possible for members of their political party,” the majority ruled. “The commission has again adopted a plan in which a disproportionate number of toss-up districts are labeled Democratic-leaning.” 

The three other GOP justices writing in dissent said the state constitution does not grant the court power to ensure political standards or parity.

“The majority decrees electoral chaos. It issues an order all but guaranteed to disrupt an impending election and bring Ohio to the brink of a constitutional crisis. It does so through an edict that finds no grounding in the text of the Constitution but instead is merely the latest manifestation of the majority’s shifting whims,” the minority wrote.

The state’s redistricting commission now has until March 28 to draw new maps, with the court recommending the body “retain an independent map drawer” who is accountable to both parties and “not only to the Republican legislative leaders.”

“We retain jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the new plan,” the majority warned.

The March 28 deadline will break the one elections officials set to allow time to draw up and print ballots ahead of early voting, which begins on Saturday for military members and voters overseas and on April 5 for the general public, a factor that is likely going to push back Ohio’s May 3 primary.

A primary delay could have outsized influence in Ohio’s Senate race, with candidates still jostling to establish a firm lead and many voters telling pollsters they remain undecided.

Tags Elections in the United States Redistricting Supreme Court of Ohio

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