The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Republican-drawn maps of the state’s districts were invalid. The state’s redistricting panel will now have 10 days to redraft the maps.
The decision was taken by 4 to 3 with one Republican justice breaking from her partyTo rule with the three Democrats. In the majority opinion, Justice Melody Stewart wrote that the maps didn’t match statewide voting preferences, which were 54 percent for Republicans and 46 percent for Democrats in the past decade.
“[T]he commission did not attempt to draw a plan that meets the proportionality standard,” Stewart wrote, adding that the commission’s maps unfairly favored one party.
Although the justice didn’t specify which party, the maps were drawn by Republicans. Ohio voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2015This amendment is intended to prevent partisan gerrymandering. The redistricting committee will need to redraw maps in accordance with that amendment.
“The Ohio Supreme Court took an important step in rejecting the cynical partisanship that was behind the Republicans’ gerrymandered state legislative map,” Marc E. Elias, a voting rights attorney who represented plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits, told The Washington Post. “Our fight for fair maps and voting rights continues in Ohio and around the country.”
Alicia Bannon, who was a plaintiff in one of these lawsuits and who is the Brennan Center for Justice’s Juiciary Program director, also celebrated the news.
“The General Assembly maps entrenched a GOP supermajority and flouted clear partisan fairness requirements in the Ohio constitution – abuses that especially impacted Ohio’s Black, Muslim and immigrant communities,” she said in a statement. “The commission is now tasked with drawing replacement maps. We will be watching to ensure that all Ohioans get the fair representation they are due.”
Plaintiffs had accused redistricting commission of not noticing the fact that Black votersDistrict maps have historically reduced the voting power of people who are black. Voting rights advocates pointed to a September hearing in which a Republican mapmaker told the commission that “legislative leaders” instructed him to deliberately disregard racial data in drawing Ohio House and Senate districts.
The bipartisan redistricting panel, made up five Republicans and two Democrats, was formed to reduce partisanship when drawing maps in the state. But lawmakers were able to sidestep the commission, allowing the Republican-controlled legislature to draw what experts said was an extremely gerrymandered map.
The map was heavily favoring Republicans, further cementing red districts and ensuring more competitive districts were still right-leaning. It also took away one seat from Democrats. creating a high possibility 13 Republican seats and only 2 Democratic seats in the state. FiveThirtyEight found.