The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected Republican redistricting maps for a third time. The 4-3 ruling, which suggested that the map was politically biased, will likely cause delays in Ohio’s upcoming primary election.
The first two rounds of map drawing were rejected after the court found that Republican party leaders had exerted substantial influence over the redistricting process and “[excluded] minority-party and other commission members.”
The redistricting efforts were a legislative response to a 2015 Ohio constitutional amendment designed to encourage bipartisanship. However, Republican Ohio Senate President Steven Huffman and his staff in particular were accused of avoiding bipartisan input and unilaterally creating this partisan redistricting map.
In its opinion, the court pointed out that numerous competitive political districts had been labeled as Democrat-leaning. For instance, numerous districts which had a Democratic voting share of 50-52 percent were labeled Democratic-leaning, whereas no similarly-competitive district was labeled Republican-leaning. The opinion further explains that, in a statewide vote with each party getting half the votes, the Democrats would win 44 percent of the House seats. Republicans would win 53 percent of the seats.
Three liberal justices, along with conservative Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, joined the majority opinion. The majority explained, “The evidence shows— overwhelmingly—that the individuals who drafted the second revised plan primarily intended to favor the Republican Party and disfavor the Democratic Party.”
The court has recommended that the parties appoint an independent map drawer to avoid bias, and a new map proposal should be ready by March 28. However, the primary vote begins on April 5, potentially giving administrators little time to send official voting materials out. Ohio election officials have estimated that delaying the primary vote may cost the state up to $20 million.