WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the evening of Wednesday, March 16, the Supreme Court of Ohio struck down the state’s third set of General Assembly maps for violating the Ohio Constitution. The maps — which the court refers to as the “second revised plans” — were adopted after the original plans and the first revised plans were struck down for being partisan gerrymanders that favor Republicans. The Commission passed the second revised state House and Senate maps after blowing past a court-ordered deadline and facing possible contempt charges. In its unsigned majority opinion released last night, the court held that the second revised plans again violate the Ohio Constitution because the maps disproportionately favor Republicans. The Commission has until March 28 to pass new maps, after which the court will review their constitutionality.
In its opinion, the majority details the Commission’s map-drawing process for the second revised plan and highlights how two Republican legislators — state Senate President Matt Huffman and state House Speaker Bob Cupp — controlled the process at the exclusion of the two Democratic members of the Commission. The majority points to the Ohio Constitution’s language that the “commission shall draft the proposed plan.” Even though the Commission has passed three plans at this point, the majority found that “it still has not drafted one. Staff members of Senate President Huffman and House Speaker Cupp have drafted all three of the plans adopted” and excluded the Democratic members from the process. Because the “evidence shows that the map-drawing process for all three districting plans … has been controlled by the Republican Party,” the majority concluded that the evidence of partisan intent throughout this process is “strong.”
Looking at the result of the process, the majority held that the second revised plans unduly favor Republicans in violation of the Ohio Constitution. In particular, the majority took issue with how the Commission defined Democratic-leaning districts, pointing out that “under the second revised plan, there are 19 House districts and 7 Senate districts—43 percent of all Democratic-leaning districts—that have Democratic vote shares between 50 and 52 percent. There are no Republican districts with a vote share less than 52.7 percent.” Because of this definition of a Democratic-leaning district and the disproportionate number of “toss up” Democratic districts, a 50/50 split statewide vote would hand Democrats about 44% of state House seats, but give Republicans about 53%. The majority concluded that the second revised plan was intentionally crafted by Republicans to create as much of a political advantage for their party as possible in defiance of the Ohio Constitution.