COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday struck down the congressional district map passed by the General Assembly.
In a 4-3 vote, with conservative Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor joining the three liberals on the bench, the court said the map unfairly favored the Republican Party.
Earlier in the week, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a similar ruling against state-level legislative districts that were drawn by Republicans.
The map passed by the state legislature in November would have favored the GOP in at least 12 of the 15 races, giving them 80% of the vote.
However, Republicans have only earned 54% of the vote in the last 10 years.
The General Assembly now has 30 days to redraw a map.
If the legislature does not get it done, it goes to the Ohio Redistricting Commission who will have an additional 30 days.
However time is of the essence as the filing deadline for candidates wanting to run for Congress is March 4.
"We may need to pick a new primary day. If we're going to do that, we need to do it right away," said Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "These maps can last up to a decade. It's critical for our representative democracy to have districts that really work for the people of Ohio. And so we stand ready to participate in any way that we can to make sure that voters finally get districts that worked for them."
While U.S. law requires states to redraw U.S. House district boundaries every decade, the boundaries approved by the House and Senate would have only be effective for four years. A 2018 referendum approved by voters states that maps that don’t get bipartisan support can only be enacted for four years.
The referendum states that districts cannot “unduly favor or disfavor any political party or its incumbents.”
The new maps were approved in nearly party-line votes in the Ohio House and Senate before getting Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature. Republicans have defended the maps.
“If it’s all about all gerrymandered districts, tell me why the governor of Ohio, the Secretary of State, the attorney general, the treasurer, the auditor is a Republican,” House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz said in November. “Is the whole state gerrymandered or is Ohio a red state?”
Ohio House and Senate Republican Caucus spokespeople said Friday they were reviewing the decision.
Meanwhile, Democrats and voting rights groups are celebrating the decision.
“Once again, the Ohio Supreme Court did what the legislature refused to do – listened to the will of Ohio voters,” said Elizabeth Walter, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. “Any map that further rigs our state in favor of one party over another is unacceptable and we’ll be watching closely to make sure any new maps reflect the fair representation that Ohioans overwhelmingly called for.”
"This is a strong vindication of Ohio voters," said Miller. "The evidence speaks for itself that these are unduly partisan gerrymandered maps. And by the way, while they're rigged for the political, for one political party, they harm every Ohio voter by polluting our democracy. So this is a win for every voter in the state."