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Ohio Supreme Court strikes down state legislative maps

 House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission on September 9, 2021 at the Ohio Statehouse. [Andy Chow /  Ohio Public Radio]
House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission on September 9, 2021 at the Ohio Statehouse.

Updated: 10:32 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the GOP-drawn state House and Senate maps are unconstitutionally gerrymandered in a 4-3 decision Wednesday, sending the Ohio Redistricting Commission back to the drawing board.

The commission did not meet the proportionality standard set in the state constitution, the court wrote. That provision requires that districts are aportioned to reflect Ohio’s voter mix, which is around 54% Republican and 46% Democratic.

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.

"We also conclude that the commission did not attempt to draw a plan that meets the standard in Section 6(A)—that no plan shall be drawn primarily to favor a political party," the court wrote.

The justices ordered the commission to reconvene in the next 10 days to create a new map.

The ruling was a victory for voting rights and Democratic groups in three lawsuits challenging the lines as unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, one of the groups who filed the lawsuit against the Ohio Redistricting Commission over the state maps, said, "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."

Miller goes on to say, "The people of Ohio deserve districts that are created for them rather than the short-sighted interests of politicians and parties."

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who served on the commission said in a statement, "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."

A spokesperson for Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said they are still reviewing the opinion which is 146 pages long.

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), who both served 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."

Democratic Justice Melody Stewart wrote the majority opinion with Democrats Michael Donnelly and Jennifer Brunner concurring along with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to strike down the maps. Republicans Sharon Kennedy, Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer dissented.

Ohio Statehouse News Bureau reporter Andy Chow contributed to this story.

Read the court opinion (PDF).

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