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Government/Politics

Ohio Supreme Court deliberating over resubmitted, rejected maps

CHIEF JUSTICE OCONNOR
Ohio Supreme Court
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor presides over a session of the Ohio Supreme Court on December 8, 2021.

The Ohio Supreme Court is deliberating over maps that have already been reviewed and rejected by justices two months ago.

On Thursday, the Ohio Redistricting Commission voted to re-adopt maps they passed at the end of February. With that decision, the commission failed a court order to adopt new maps.

The resubmitted maps, now known as Map 3, created 54 Republican and 45 Democratic House seats along with 18 Republican and 15 Democratic Senate seats.

However, 16 of the 45 Democratic House seats and six of the 15 Democratic Senate seats are within a 3% margin of competitiveness. The supreme court invalidated the maps on March 16 for unduly favoring the GOP because of that disproportional number of Democratic seats that were toss-up districts.

By resubmitting unconstitutional maps to the supreme court for review, state Republican leaders appear to be leaning on a federal court ruling to take hold.

Even if the supreme court rejects the maps again, the federal court will implement the unconstitutional Map 3 anyway. Federal judges ruled they would intervene by May 28, if Ohio officials can't break the redistricting logjam.

The federal court decision is the result of a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican voters in February. That lawsuit argued state officials involved in the redistricting process — Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio Redistricting Commission — were at an "impasse." That lawsuit was filed a day after the redistricting commission failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to adopt a third set of maps. The commission ended up adopting a plan seven days later.

Once the redistricting commission submitted and the supreme court rejected a fourth set of maps, a federal three-judge panel ruled that Ohio had until May 28 to implement constitutional maps.

Republican redistricting commissioners argued that Map 3 had to be implemented because it's the only plan that would allow elections officials to carry out an August 2 primary. That primary, which has yet to be scheduled by the legislature, would be for Ohio House and Ohio Senate races. Those races were removed from the May 3 ballot because the maps were still in limbo.

Voting rights advocates, community organizations, and national Democratic groups argue that the redistricting commission has failed in its constitutional duty to adopt maps that follow Ohio's laws.

The last time the redistricting commission failed to meet a court-ordered deadline, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, filed a motion for every commissioner to explain why they should not be held in contempt. That request was lifted once the commission went back to work on drawing new maps.

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