State Supreme Court tosses Ohio redistricting plan that benefited Republicans – The Washington Post

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The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday rejected a new congressional map drawn by state Republican lawmakers as unconstitutional and ordered it redrawn, marking a major victory for Democrats in a state where lopsided districts have confounded their efforts to gain seats in the House.

Democrats and voting rights groups had sued after Republicans created a map in November in which the party would have been favored to win 12 out of 15 seats, according to the court’s 4-3 opinion. They charged that the new lines defied a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018 to ban partisan gerrymandering.

While Republicans have won most recent statewide elections, their margins of victory have been far smaller.

“Gerrymandering is the antithetical perversion of representative democracy,” Justice Michael Donnelly wrote in the decision. “Its singular allure is that it locks in the controlling party’s political power while locking out any other party or executive office from serving as a check and balance to power.”

The court ordered the state legislature to submit a new map in the next 3o days.

The decision came two days after the court also struck down new state legislative maps as unconstitutional and ordered them redrawn.

The ruling Friday on the congressional district map created the possibility of several new Democratic-leaning seats in the state, a significant impact given the party’s narrow House majority at the beginning of what is expected to be a difficult election year. Democrats have lost seats due to redistricting in growing southern states, particularly those held by Republicans.

The move by Ohio’s Republican lawmakers was the second consecutive effort to blunt Democratic growth. After redistricting in 2011, the state’s congressional delegation went from 10 Democrats and eight Republicans when Barack Obama won the state in 2008 to 12 Republicans and four Democrats when Obama won it again in 2012. Not a single seat flipped since.

Hamilton County, which contains the heavily-Black city of Cincinnati, was sliced in half in 2011, and those minority voters lumped into districts with more rural, majority-White voters. For the past decade, the county, which voted for President Biden, was represented by two conservative Republicans.

Although the constitutional amendment called for counties to be kept whole, GOP lawmakers again chopped up Hamilton County last year, this time into three pieces.

“The enacted plan splits Hamilton County into three districts for no apparent reason other than to confer an undue partisan advantage on the Republican Party,” Donnelly wrote.

[How redistricting is shaping the 2022 House map]

The Democrats’ legal victory was the result of a concerted political effort over the last several years to elect Democratic judges to the state Supreme Court ahead of this year’s redistricting.

David Pepper, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party who helped lead the effort against the Republican-drawn maps, said of Friday’s decision: “The people of Ohio are sick of the politicians rigging elections, so in a few years, they changed both their Constitution and the Ohio Supreme Court itself so it would be balanced. The rigged legislature ignored all that, broke the law, and today got their comeuppance. It’s a huge win for democracy, the rule of law, and the voters of Ohio.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who signed off on the legislative and congressional maps, had no immediate comment on the court’s action. His son, Patrick DeWine, is a judge on the state Supreme Court and refused to recuse himself from the case. Patrick DeWine was one of the three judges who voted in support of the GOP maps.

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