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Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down State Legislative Maps

House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission on September 9, 2021 at the Ohio Statehouse.
Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio
House and Senate Republican caucuses present their proposed district maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission on September 9, 2021 at the Ohio Statehouse.

Updated January 13, 2022 at 7:20 a.m.

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the GOP-drawn state House and Senate maps are unconstitutionally gerrymandered in a 4-3 decision Wednesday, sending the Ohio Redistricting Commission back to the drawing board.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission must take another crack at complying with provisions of a 2015 constitutional amendment within 10 days.

The court ruled new maps for Ohio House and Senate districts must be re-drawn because the current maps do not meet voter-approved provisions of the Ohio Constitution. Those provisions mandated attempts at avoiding partisan favoritism and at proportionally distributing districts to reflect Ohio’s voter mix, which is around 54% Republican and 46% Democratic.

Democratic Justice Melody Stewart wrote the majority opinion with Democrats Michael Donnelly and Jennifer Brunner concurring along with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to strike down the maps. Republicans Sharon Kennedy, Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer dissented.

The ruling was a victory for voting rights and Democratic groups in three lawsuits challenging the lines as unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Jen Miller, executive director for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, one of the groups who filed the lawsuit against the Ohio Redistricting Commission over the state maps, said the ruling means the state will get better representation.

"This validates everything that Ohio voters have been saying for the last decade, first at the ballot box and then in all the hearings during the redistricting process," Miller said. "The people of Ohio deserve districts that are created for them rather than the short-sighted interests of politicians and parties."

A spokesperson for Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said they are still reviewing the opinion which is 146 pages long.

It was long thought that O'Connor would be a critical vote in this case, and perhaps in the case involving the Congressional map that was argued a few weeks ago. O'Connor had sided against the maps that were drawn in 2011, which were ultimately upheld by a majority of Republicans on the Court.

Gov. Mike DeWine, who voted with Republicans for the maps, issued a statement after the ruling was released that said: "Throughout this process, I expected that Ohio’s legislative maps would be litigated and that the Ohio Supreme Court would make a decision on their constitutionality. I will work with my fellow Redistricting Commission members on revised maps that are consistent with the Court’s order."

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), the two Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, issued a joint statement saying: "The court’s ruling today confirmed what Democrats have been saying all along: the gerrymandered maps created by the majority are unfair, unrepresentative and unconstitutional."

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.