The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday declared the newly drawn legislative maps invalid and ordered the limits created by the GOP to be set within 10 days.
The court’s rejection of cards that would have retained Republican qualified majorities in both chambers is a victory for Democratic and voting rights groups that had challenged the lines as unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
In a two paragraph entry, Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor returned the cards to the Ohio Redistribution Commission to comply with the provisions of a 2015 constitutional amendment requiring an attempt to avoid partisan favoritism.
Republicans who controlled the map-making process had argued that the commission fulfilled its constitutional mandates by complying with a host of other protocols that rendered partisan patronage and proportionality provisions moot. The commission was unable to find a bipartisan compromise sooner and dissolved.
The state House and Senate cards strongly favored the Republican Party, although Ohio’s political makeup is 54% Republican and 46% Democratic.
O’Connor, who is 70, has to leave the field at the end of the year due to age limits. His was seen as a pivotal opinion on the 4-3 Republican-majority court.
The ruling impacts all three card lawsuits filed on behalf of Ohio voters by a host of national groups, including the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, ACLU, League of Women Voters, CAIR-Ohio, l ‘Ohio Organizing Collaborative and A. Philip Randolph Institute.
It was the first time that the new Ohio Redistribution Commission drew new legislative maps of 99 Ohio House districts and the 33 Ohio Senate districts. Its members, five Republicans and two Democrats, failed to reach a bipartisan consensus, so the map they approved on September 16 along party lines was only to last four years.
The dispute comes in the process of redrawing maps of legislative and congressional districts that states must undertake once a decade to reflect changes from the U.S. census.