SCOTUS Allows Ohio To Delay Redrawing Congressional Map

Chief Justice John Roberts (second from right) and Justice Neil Gorsuch (center) walk down the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C in 2017.
The Supreme Court of the United States. [NPR]

Ohio does not need to immediately draw a new congressional map, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The state’s congressional districts were found to be an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander” by a federal court in May, which ordered the legislature to draw a new map by June 14, 2019.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court after the three-judge panel in Cincinnati refused to delay their order. Yost wanted to hold off on the redistricting process until the Supreme Court issued decisions on gerrymandering cases from Maryland and North Carolina.

“If this Court’s ruling were to be affirmed, the voters of Ohio will have to vote under at least three different congressional district maps in three consecutive general elections,” Yost wrote in his stay request.

The Supreme Court also put a hold on a similar order in Michigan. The brief orders indicate that whatever the court decides about gerrymandering, it will affect maps elsewhere in the country. Those decisions are expected to arrive in June.

The ACLU and voting rights groups, which brought the lawsuit against the state last year, wanted to begin the map-drawing process immediately.

In its original ruling, the U.S. District Court found that Ohio’s congressional map was intended “to disadvantage Democratic voters and entrench Republican representatives in power.” Since being enacted, Ohio's congressional delegation has remained at 12 Republicans and four Democrats.

According to the judges, the map violated voters constitutional right to choose their representatives and exceeded the state’s powers under the Constitution.

"Accordingly, we declare Ohio’s 2012 map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, enjoin its use in the 2020 election, and order the enactment of a constitutionally viable replacement," the judges wrote in their decision.

The judges gave Ohio until June 14, 2019 to enact a new map or else the court would assume control of the redistricting process itself. Michigan's deadline to draw a new map was August 1.

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