By JULIE CARR SMYTH – Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a second Republican-drawn map of U.S. House districts, sending it back for a third attempt to meet constitutional parameters approved by voters in Ohio.
The ruling adds to a string of court defeats for ruling Republicans in Ohio amid the once-a-decade redistricting process states are undertaking to reflect shifting US census demographics. Despite these failures in court, however, Ohio’s 2022 congressional primaries went ahead on May 3 under an invalidated U.S. House prior card, and its legislative primaries under an unconstitutional Statehouse card did. take place on August 2.
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The new maps will not be implemented until 2024.
In its 4-3 ruling, the court said the latest map — which was passed earlier this year by the Ohio Redistricting Commission without the support of Democrats — again violated a 2018 constitutional amendment intended to prevent partisan gerrymandering.
The map created 10 secure Republican seats and five Democratic seats. However, the High Court majority said the latest map “wraps” Democrats into three congressional districts that would strongly favor a Democratic nominee, while unfairly dividing counties and cities around heavily Democratic Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. .
GOP commissioners called it their best attempt to avoid partisan favors while adhering to specific provisions of the Constitution, which are being used this decade for the first time.
The majority said evidence showed a map that did not “unduly favor” Ohio’s majority party would have at least six Democratic-leaning districts, leaving nine Republican-leaning districts. The justices cited studies by several election experts hired by suffrage groups and Democrats who challenged the maps.
The decision sends the map back to the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which will have 30 days to act.
If lawmakers fail, the debate will once again return to the redistricting panel, whose multiple maps of legislative and congressional districts have yet to withstand court scrutiny.
The Ohio Attorney General, who is counsel for the Redistricting Commission, does not have the ability to appeal because voters gave the Supreme Court original and exclusive jurisdiction.
In their dissent, Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat DeWine — sons of Gov. Mike DeWine, who sits on the redistricting committee — argued that the constitution does not define what “undue favors” means and that the majority analysis is wrong. They said proportional party representation is not even “an aspirational goal” of the constitution, “much less a requirement”.
The decision “demonstrates that the Majority has once again assumed an outsized role in the process of shaping a map of the Congressional District by perpetuating its own standard of what constitutes ‘unduly favoring’ a political party,” they wrote. the dissidents.
In a separate dissent, Judge Pat Fischer asserted that the state High Court should serve as the “trial court” in such disputes, but said that did not happen in this first use of the new process for creating maps of Ohio.
Moderate Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who at 70 must leave the court on December 31 due to age restrictions, again provided a decisive vote, joining the court’s three Democrats in the majority. O’Connor had also joined Democrats in the decision against the first Congressional card.
Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said the group agrees the districts are “rigged for politicians rather than being made to stand up for the rights of Ohioans to have meaningful elections.” They hope mapmakers will “take the Ohio Constitution seriously and create maps that are truly fair to the people of Ohio,” she said.
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