The Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday upheld state legislative maps drawn up by the Republican-controlled Apportionment Board, denying Democrats’ claims the maps unconstitutionally split districts for political purposes.
The court’s 4-3 ruling found that the state constitution does not mandate political neutrality when redrawing legislative districts, even though it does say partisan considerations can’t prevail over nonpartisan requirements, reports the Columbus Dispatch
Justice Terrence O’Donnell, who wrote the majority opinion, said “political factors were considered only after the applicable constitutional and other legal requirements were met.”
The Apportionment Board redrew all 99 House and 33 Senate districts, as is required by law every 10 years following a new census count. Republicans, controlling four of five seats on the board, gerrymandered district lines, which helped them retain majorities in both chambers.
Democrats submitted their own maps that split only 30 counties, rather than 50 counties on the GOP maps. The court didn’t give their efforts much consideration. O’Donnell said it’s not the court’s place to act on whether one party or another drew up better maps.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer and Yvette McGee Brown, the court’s only Democrat, dissented. Pfeifer said the majority opinion “relegates this court to the status of a pawn in a high-stakes political chess match.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said he hopes the close decision will encourage Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP lawmakers to work with Democrats to advance redistricting reform.
“In this narrow split decision, even the Republican Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court voted to strike down the gerrymandered districts Gov. Kasich and his friends crafted in secret,” Redfern said.
On Election Day, voters rejected a ballot proposal to change how Ohio draws legislative and congressional maps.
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