The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state's Republican-drawn congressional map Tuesday, ruling that districts used in the May primary violate anti-gerrymandering rules in the state Constitution.

In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected Ohio's 15-district congressional map and ordered Ohio lawmakers to redraw a new one for the 2024 elections within 30 days. If they can't, the Ohio Redistricting Commission will have 30 days to adopt a congressional map.

The map struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court will be used in the November elections because candidates were already selected in the May primary using these districts.

That map guarantees Democrats two victories – Columbus' 3rd Congressional District represented by Rep. Joyce Beatty and Cleveland's 11th Congressional District represented by Rep. Shontel Brown. But Republicans are either assured wins or have a shot in the remaining 13.

"Clearly, we agree with the Ohio Supreme Court that this second congressional map is gerrymandered beyond a reasonable doubt," said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. "It’s our hope that the Ohio mapmakers will heed court orders and deliver congressional districts that truly serve voters."

The Ohio Supreme Court's majority ruled that the map was slightly more favorable to Democrats than one rejected earlier this year. Three Republican justices dissented, writing that both maps met Ohio's constitutional standards.

"Clearly, we agree with the Ohio Supreme Court that this second congressional map is gerrymandered beyond a reasonable doubt," said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. "It’s our hope that the Ohio mapmakers will heed court orders and deliver congressional districts that truly serve voters."

The Ohio Supreme Court's majority ruled that the map was slightly more favorable to Democrats than one rejected earlier this year. Three Republican justices dissented, writing that both maps met Ohio's constitutional standards.

No end run around anti-gerrymandering language

Before approving this map, Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, argued that the Ohio Redistricting Commission didn't need to abide by voter-approved rules that prevent maps from unduly favoring one party. The court, ultimately, disagreed.

"No constitutional language suggests that the voters who approved Article XIX intended to allow the prohibitions against partisan favoritism and unduly splitting governmental units to be avoided so easily," according to the majority's opinion, which did not list a specific author.

However, Kennedy and DeWine pointed out in their dissent that "there is nothing in the Constitution that precludes map makers from seeking to maximize competitive districts, and such a goal does not cause undue favoritism."

Ohio's unconstitutional congressional map creates a toss-up district in the Toledo area for Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Congress' longest-serving female lawmaker. In November, Kaptur faces Republican newcomer J.R. Majewski, who won former President Donald Trump's endorsement after painting his lawn with a giant Trump banner.

Republican-drawn map for Ohio's congressional districts

In the Cincinnati area, the map also threatens Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, whose 1st Congressional District now leans Democratic. He faces Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman, a Democrat, this fall. But it could have been worse for Chabot if GOP mapmakers had drawn the district entirely inside Hamilton County.

More:'Crap' and 'cheap attacks': Landsman vs. Chabot race is getting ugly

Those who opposed the map filed different lawsuits challenging it. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's National Redistricting Action Fund wanted to toss out the entire map. The League of Women Voters of Ohio wanted the Ohio Redistricting Commission to redraw two districts: Cincinnati's 1st and the 15th, which stretches from Columbus to western Ohio.

Justice Pat Fischer, a Republican, criticized the way the redistricting cases were handled, saying they could have held public arguments on a case that wouldn't affect elections until 2024.

"The compressed timeframe has resulted in a lack of transparency, which is particularly concerning given the high-profile nature of these cases and the fact that they seem to be of great interest to all Ohioans," he wrote.

What happens next with Ohio redistricting?

Tuesday's decision marks the second congressional map and fourth set of legislative maps that the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected as unconstitutional, each time in narrow 4-3 decisions.

The now-unconstitutional map will be used to select members of Congress in the November elections.

In addition, Ohioans will vote in state House and Senate district primaries on Aug. 2, using maps that two federal judges picked even though the Ohio Supreme Court rejected them twice.

That primary was delayed after the GOP-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to approve a map that the state Supreme Court found constitutional. Taxpayers will foot the $20 million bill for a second primary.

 

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