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Ohio Supreme Court strikes down new state legislative district maps

House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The ruling says the Ohio Redistricting Commission must reconvene and redraw the Ohio House and Ohio Senate maps within the next 10 days.

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled in a 4-3 decision against the state legislative district maps created by the Republican-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission.

Voter rights groups, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio, challenged the maps in court, arguing that the plans went against anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendments passed by voters in 2015.

The court says the Ohio Redistricting Commission did not follow the constitutional requirement to draw maps that reflected Ohio's political makeup.

The state splits about 54% Republican and 46% Democratic. But the GOP could control about 63% of the seats under the new maps, retaining a Republican supermajority.

The Ohio House map, ruled invalid by the court, created 62 Republican-favored seats to 37 Democratic-favored seats. The Ohio Senate would have split 23 Republican seats to 10 Democratic seats.

Read the ruling here.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, concurred with the majority opinion with Justices Melody Stewart, Michael Donnelly, and Jennifer Brunner, all Democrats. The remaining Republicans, Justices Sharon Kennedy, Patrick Fischer, and Patrick DeWine, dissented.

It was long thought that O'Connor would be a critical vote in this case, and perhaps in the case involving the Congressional map that was argued a few weeks ago. O'Connor had sided against the maps that were drawn in 2011, which were ultimately upheld by a majority of Republicans on the Court.

Jen Miller, executive director for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, says the ruling means the state will get better representation.

"This validates everything that Ohio voters have been saying for the last decade; first at the ballot box and then in all the hearings during the redistricting process. The people of Ohio deserve districts that are created for them rather than the short sighted interests of politicians and parties," says Miller.

Gov. Mike DeWine, who voted with Republicans for the maps, issued a statement after the ruling was released that said: "Throughout this process, I expected that Ohio’s legislative maps would be litigated and that the Ohio Supreme Court would make a decision on their constitutionality. I will work with my fellow Redistricting Commission members on revised maps that are consistent with the Court’s order."

Other Republican members of the redistricting commission did not offer comment saying they are still reviewing the court's opinion.

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), the two Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, issued a joint statement saying: "The court’s ruling today confirmed what Democrats have been saying all along: the gerrymandered maps created by the majority are unfair, unrepresentative and unconstitutional."

The ruling says the commission must adopt new legislative district maps within the next 10 days.

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