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Supreme Court Allows Ohio To Delay Redrawing Congressional Map

U.S. Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP

Ohio does not need to immediately draw a new congressional map, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering challenges against congressional maps in Maryland and North Carolina. Friday's order allows both Ohio and Michigan to hold off redrawing their maps until the court decides those cases, which is expected sometime in June.

Ohio’s congressional districts were found to be an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander” by a federal court in May, which ordered the legislature to draw a new map by June 14, 2019. Attorney General Dave Yost appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court after the three-judge panel in Cincinnati refused to delay their deadline.

“If this Court’s ruling were to be affirmed, the voters of Ohio will have to vote under at least three different congressional district maps in three consecutive general elections,” Yost wrote in his stay request.

The ACLU and voting rights groups, which brought the lawsuit against the state last year, hoped to cement a new map in time for the 2020 election. Along with Democrats, the groups accused Republican leaders of dragging their feet on the map-drawing process.

"We feel confident that our trial court's thorough and scholarly opinion - articulating its basis for finding Ohio's extreme and unconstitutional gerrymander - will shine light for SCOTUS as it continues the other cases," the ACLU of Ohio said on Twitter.

The Supreme Court's brief order isn't a judgment on the merits of the Ohio lawsuit. But it does indicate that whatever the court decides about gerrymandering, the ruling may affect maps elsewhere in the country.

In its original ruling, the U.S. District Court found that Ohio’s congressional map was intended “to disadvantage Democratic voters and entrench Republican representatives in power.” Since being enacted, Ohio's congressional delegation has remained at 12 Republicans and four Democrats.

According to the judges, the map violated voters' constitutional right to choose their representatives and exceeded the state’s powers under the Constitution.

"Accordingly, we declare Ohio’s 2012 map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, enjoin its use in the 2020 election, and order the enactment of a constitutionally viable replacement," the judges wrote in their decision.

The judges gave Ohio until June 14, 2019 to enact a new map or else it would take control of the redistricting process itself. Michigan's deadline to draw a new map was August 1.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose has repeatedly said he'll work to administer fair elections in 2020 "pending the conclusion of the judicial process."