State Supreme Court Rejects GOP Gerrymandering Attempt

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The Ohio state Supreme Court has rejected a Congressional map that was recently approved by Republican state officials and ordered that a new map be submitted within 30 days. As enacted, the disputed map set Republicans in the state on a course to win some 80 percent of the state’s U.S. House seats, despite the fact that the actual margins of victory for Republican candidates in recent statewide elections within Ohio were substantially smaller, meaning that the new map did not appear to accurately reflect the political distribution of the population. Black voters around Cincinnati were among those particularly impacted by the new map: suburbs of the city that contain sizable Black populations were separated from Cincinnati and tacked onto a largely white, Republican district.

The same sort of scenario unfolded around Akron, where mapmakers separated the city from certain Democratic-leaning suburbs and lumped it in with Republican-dominated areas. As recapped by The Washington Post, plaintiffs in the case alleged “that the new lines defied a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018 to ban partisan gerrymandering.” The voting rights organization Democracy Docket added that those behind the case claimed “that the map drawers diluted the voting power of Democrats to hand Republicans at least 12 out of 15 congressional seats, despite the fact that the state’s voting history is nearly divided among the two parties, and unnecessarily split up counties and other governmental units to do so.”

Justice Michael Donnelly on the Ohio Supreme Court observed after arguments were presented that “[when] the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins.” Donnelly also wrote, more specifically, that state legislators “produced a plan that is infused with undue partisan bias and that is incomprehensibly more extremely biased than the 2011 plan that it replaced.” This ruling regarding Ohio’s Congressional district maps emerged within days of a similar ruling from the same court against state legislative district maps, which Justices also found to be inappropriately tilted. After this newer ruling, Jen Miller, who serves as executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, commented as follows this week:

‘Once again, Ohio’s high court steps in to defend the Ohio Constitution, our representative democracy, and the right of every Ohio to have fair districts… We call on the Ohio General Assembly to finally put voters first, rather than their short-sighted and selfish political interests.’

The Columbus Dispatch notes that if state legislators ultimately fail to present a solution, then “the Ohio Redistricting Commission – a panel of statewide elected officials and state lawmakers – will have 30 days to do so.” Meanwhile, other legal fights over GOP-backed gerrymandering are continuing. In one particularly egregious example, Texas Republican officials gave two new U.S. House districts in the state to white majorities, although non-white residents were responsible for most of the population growth that gave the state those districts. When communities are kept out of the majority across legislative districts — which splitting up certain areas accomplishes — it becomes more difficult for members of these communities to have the substantive say that they’re supposed to possess in the representative-selecting process.