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Top Ohio court strikes down state’s gerrymandered congressional map

The court — which voted 4-3 to strike down the map, with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor becoming a member of the panel’s three Democrats within the majority — ordered the GOP-controlled state Legislature to attract a brand new map that “isn’t dictated by partisan concerns” within the subsequent 30 days.

The Ohio ruling represents Democrats’ first main authorized victory of the once-a-decade redistricting cycle — and maybe not the final. Because the U.S. Supreme Court dominated in 2019 that federal courts could not police partisan gerrymandering, Democrats particularly have homed in on state courts to roll again Republican-drawn district strains. Earlier this week, after a decrease court signed off on North Carolina’s new, GOP-drawn congressional map, Democrats mentioned they might take the case to that state’s Supreme Court — the place nearly all of justices have been elected as Democrats.

“Ohio Republicans purposefully drew gerrymandered maps regardless of redistricting reforms — they usually did so as a result of they thought they might get away with it. However they underestimated our preparedness and our tenacity,” former Lawyer Normal Eric Holder, the chair of the Nationwide Democratic Redistricting Committee, mentioned in an announcement. “It took each device accessible to combat in opposition to this egregious energy seize, from grassroots engagement to years of planning and preparation, to arguing earlier than an engaged state supreme court.”

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Friday’s resolution represented the second time this week the Ohio Supreme Court had slapped down redistricting plans from Republicans. On Tuesday, the justices invalidated state legislative districts Republicans had additionally redrawn with out Democratic help as improperly favoring the GOP. The choice got here from the identical 4-3 majority, with O’Connor becoming a member of the Democrats, and the opposite three Republican justices dissenting.

It was unclear Friday whether or not the court ruling would delay Ohio’s Could 3 major — together with the hotly contested race for the state’s open Senate seat. Congressional candidates have till March 4 to file with state officers for the poll. If the state Legislature makes use of its total 30-day window to provide a brand new map, it might go away fewer than three weeks for candidates to file earlier than the deadline.

The state Legislature will possible flip to its personal redistricting first: The state Supreme Court gave it solely 10 days to repair these maps, because the submitting deadline for state legislative candidates, Feb. 4, is a month sooner than the congressional deadline.

Republicans in Ohio’s state Legislature drew a map that might proceed their dominance of the state’s congressional delegation, regardless of a voter-approved poll initiative final decade to crack down on partisan gerrymandering. The map, which was signed into regulation by GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, would solely have been in impact for the 2022 and 2024 elections, as a result of it handed with out Democratic help within the state Legislature.

The brand new strains preserved two strongly Democratic seats, packed densely into cities: the districts at present held by Reps. Shontel Brown and Joyce Beatty in Cleveland and Columbus, respectively. However the remainder of the state was carved into 13 districts designed to elect Republicans, albeit with aggressive seats in Cincinnati, Dayton and alongside the state’s northern border with Michigan and the western half of Lake Erie.

That northern Ohio seat might have doomed Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was first elected in 1982. Her present district was received by now-President Joe Biden by 19 share factors in 2020, however beneath the brand new map it might have remodeled right into a district Donald Trump carried by 4 factors.

Kaptur referred to as the choice “a convincing stand in opposition to unconstitutional districts that rob communities of honest illustration” in an announcement issued after the choice. “It’s time for the Ohio Legislature to come back collectively to create districts which can be in step with Ohio’s electoral competitiveness,” she mentioned.

State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, a Republican member of the state legislature’s joint redistricting committee and a declared candidate in opposition to Kaptur, decried “activist judges legislating from the bench” in an announcement issued from her congressional marketing campaign.

In 2018, Ohio voters accredited a state constitutional modification that put up guardrails for legislators through the congressional redistricting course of. The modification restricted legislators’ skill to separate municipalities and forbade them from drawing a map “that unduly favors or disfavors a political get together or its incumbents.” It additionally mentioned a map handed solely alongside partisan strains would solely be in impact for 4 years, not the same old 10 years for many states’ redistricting procedures.

The modification handed overwhelmingly, with practically 75 p.c of voters in favor.

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