Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Third Attempt at State House and Senate Maps Unconstitutional

A third set of Ohio House and Senate district maps has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Ohio, which ordered the members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission to reconvene and adopt new General Assembly maps.

In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court emphasized that Article XI, Section 1(C) of the Ohio Constitution provides: “The commission shall draft the proposed plan in the manner prescribed in this article.” (Emphasis added.)

The Court stated that the commission has adopted three plans so far, but it still has not drafted one.  The seven-member commission must draft the maps rather than adopt maps that have been drafted solely by the Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate without consideration or participation from the Democratic members of the commission.

In a per curiam opinion, the Court majority stated that the “nearly exclusive control over the first two rounds of map drawing was strong evidence of partisan intent” to favor the Republicans and disfavor Democrats in the drawing of legislative districts.

The commission has until March 28 to file a plan with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and until 9 a.m., March 29 to file a copy with the Court.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Michael P. Donnelly, Melody Stewart, and Jennifer Brunner joined the majority opinion.

Justice Brunner also issued a concurring opinion.

In a joint dissenting opinion, Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and R. Patrick DeWine stated that the majority has ordered “electoral chaos” by bringing Ohio “to the brink of a constitutional crisis.” The justices explained that the standards the majority used to evaluate the proposed maps are not grounded in the text of the Ohio Constitution. The constitution requires the commissioners to “adopt” a plan, but does not empower the court to “micromanage” the procedure by which they do so.

Rejecting the majority’s new "seven hands on the mouse” rule for drafting a plan as “patently ridiculous,” Justices Kennedy and DeWine pointed out that the majority “never explains how a plan that is introduced and adopted by a simple majority can somehow have been collectively drafted.”  

Similarly, the justices said that the thresholds the majority sets to determine if a district map valid are found nowhere in the constitution or the prior decisions in these cases.

 “In demanding that the commission adopt a plan designed to guarantee Democratic wins, even in the face of changing voter preferences, the majority compels what the Constitution forbids: gerrymandering,” Justices Kennedy and DeWine concluded.

In a separate dissent, Justice Patrick F. Fischer reiterated his objections to the Court’s view that it has the authority to review a commission map that will only be in effect for four years. He also stated that the additional remedies requested by the parties bringing the suits were either unconstitutional or invalid.

2021-1193, 2021-1198, and 2021-1210.League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-789.

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