The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s new congressional map Friday, saying it violated a state constitutional amendment barring partisan gerrymandering.
The 4-3 decision began by calling gerrymandering “the antithetical perversion of representative democracy.” It noted that Ohio voters passed two amendments to constrain the legislature’s ability to draw partisan legislative maps, in particular the adoption of Article XIX which governs the drawing of congressional districts. Despite this, the opinion notes, in 2021 “the General Assembly did not heed the clarion call sent by Ohio voters to stop political gerrymandering.”
The opinion, written by Justice Donnelly, cited violations of Article XIX, section 1(C)(3)(a) and (b), which bars the legislature from drawing a map that “unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents,” or that “unduly split[s] governmental units.” The court found the redistricting plan invalid because it unduly favors Republicans over Democrats and impermissibly splits Hamilton, Cuyahoga, and Summit Counties.
Article XIX allows the General Assembly to correct deficiencies in congressional maps if the defects can easily be subject to individual correction. In the case of this map, however, the court determined that party favoritism extends throughout the entire map and that the court has “no recourse but to invalidate the entire congressional-district plan.” The court ordered the General Assembly to pass a new congressional district map “not dictated by partisan considerations.”
In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice O’Connor wrote, “No magician’s trick can hide what the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates: the map statistically presents such a partisan advantage that it unduly favors the Republican Party.” Three justices, Kennedy, Fischer, and DeWine, wrote a dissenting opinion in which they attacked the majority’s reliance on the word “unduly,” claiming that there is no “workable standard about what it means to unduly favor a political party or divide a county.”
The General Assembly now has thirty days to create a new map. If it cannot, the Ohio Redistricting Committee will be given another thirty days to draw a map that meets all constitutional criteria.