Court tosses Ohio’s legislative district map over partisan gerrymandering, orders new one
A federal court ruled Friday that Ohio’s legislative district map illegally discriminated against voters based on political party affiliation and must be redrawn ahead of the 2020 election.
The three-judge panel for the Southern District of Ohio said GOP lawmakers in the state pushed through a “remarkably pro-Republican redistricting bill” in 2011, taking advantage of their majority, and were assisted by partisan operatives in Washington, D.C.
The court held the Republican lawmakers discriminated against Democratic voters’ associational rights in all of the 16 districts without justification.
“They designed these districts with one overarching goal in mind the creation of an Ohio congressional map that would reliably elect twelve Republican representatives and four Democratic representatives,” the judges said in the 298-page opinion.
The ruling comes after a federal court threw out Michigan’s legislative map last week, also ordering it must be redrawn ahead of the 2020 election because it also disadvantaged Democratic voters.
Partisan gerrymandering has become a major flashpoint for politicians and the legal community, with voting-rights activists saying that piling voters of one party into some districts to dilute their power, while spreading voters of the other party out among districts to increase their power runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal rights.
The Supreme Court, however, has not yet reached that same conclusion.
Although justices have expressed concern over the extent of gerrymandering, they’ve struggled to draw clear lines to identify when a map is too partisan.
The court punted on one partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin last term, but it has other cases pending this term that put the issue back squarely before the justices. A decision is expected by June.