Ohio Supreme Court nixes new congressional map, squelching strong GOP gerrymander

Ohio's Supreme Court on Friday struck down the state's new congressional district map, ruling Republicans violated the state's constitution by gerrymandering districts to favor their own candidates — sending lawmakers back to the drawing board.

The 4-3 decision, in which Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor was the key vote, rejected a map approved by Gov. Mike DeWine in November that would likely have given Republicans a 12-3 advantage in the state's House delegation — although the state has leaned just slightly Republican in recent elections. The redrawn map reflects Ohio will lose a seat in the House due to slowed population growth.

The ruling was widely expected, as the same court struck down Ohio's state House and Senate maps Thursday for similar reasons.

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"When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins," Justice Michael Donnelly wrote in the court's opinion. "That perhaps explains how a party that generally musters no more than 55% of the statewide popular vote is positioned to reliably win anywhere from 75 percent to 80% of the seats in the Ohio congressional delegation. By any rational measure, that skewed result just does not add up."

The ruling has national ramifications. House Republicans need to net five seats in the 435-member chamber to claim their first majority since losing it in the 2018 midterm elections. Ohio's gerrymander over the last decade was one of the strongest for House Republicans, with no seats flipping to the Democrats.

As a result of the ruling, Ohio lawmakers will have 30 days to draw a new map, and if they fail to do so, the Ohio Redistricting Commission will be granted another 30 days.

In 2018, Ohio voters approved by wide margins a measure to curb partisan gerrymandering in the state. Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters argued in a statement Republicans ignored that directive from voters.

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"Once again, the Ohio Supreme Court did what the legislature refused to do — listened to the will of Ohio voters," Walters said. "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."

DeWine's office and the Ohio GOP did not respond to requests for comment.

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