Ohio Supreme Court rules the latest GOP-drawn state legislative district maps unconstitutional
The new state House and state Senate district maps approved by Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission last month have been invalidated by the court.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the latest four-year maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission do not comply with the state constitution's anti-gerrymandering requirements, along with the guidance offered by the court in previous orders.
The now-invalidated House map creates 54 Republican-favored seats and 45 Democratic-favored seats. In the proposed Senate map, 18 districts favor Republicans and 15 districts favor Democrats.
This effectively eliminates any possibility of a full primary with all statewide, legislative and congressional offices on the ballot on May 3.
Employees at county boards of elections around the state have been working around the clock to prepare ballots for the May 3 primary while keeping an eye on possible court decisions. Those ballots have been using the maps approved by the redistricting commission on February 24.
Opponents argued in court that those maps still violate the constitution because the number of competitive districts still disproportionately impact Democratic seats. Of the 45 Democratic House districts, 16 were within a 3% margin of Republican and Democratic voters.
Republican legislative leaders have been reluctant to consider moving the date of the May 3 primary. They have said they would reconsider that stance if the court rules against any of the pending district maps.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio) has said it would not be possible for Ohio to hold elections for state legislative races on May 3 if the court were to rule against the February 24 maps.
The court ruled that the Ohio Redistricting Commission must adopt another state legislative district plan by March 28.
"It is further ordered that to promote transparency and increase public trust, the drafting shall occur in public and the commissioners should convene frequent meetings to demonstrate their bipartisan efforts to reach a constitutional plan within the time set by this court," wrote Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, who joined the three Democratic justices in the majority opinion.
Read: Ohio Supreme Court's ruling on state legislative district map challenge
In a strongly worded dissent, Republican Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat DeWine wrote, "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."
And they added, "The majority’s decree today is an exercise of raw political power. Nothing less. Nothing more."
The court is still reviewing a March 2 proposal for a new congressional district map.