Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Fourth Set of Redistricting Plans
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a fourth set of redistricting plans drafted by the state’s redistricting commission, but left the panel with the responsibility of redrawing the maps at least one more time.
In its divided, 4-3 ruling, the court lauded the Ohio Redistricting Commissions attempt to follow its directions after the last set of district maps were rejected, but the majority said state Senate Republicans upended the process by failing to wait for independent mapmakers to do their work.
As previously reported by The Well News, after the previous set of maps was rejected on the grounds that they were unlawfully politically gerrymandered, the court advised the commission to hire independent cartographers and to give them each a “neutral” set of instructions.
The Republicans on the redistricting commission hired Dr. Douglas Johnson as their mapmaker, while the Democrats chose Dr. Michael McDonald.
In the spirit of transparency, the commission also partnered with the Ohio Channel to set up a room with cameras showing Johnson and McDonald working, and the computers on which they were collecting data and drawing district lines.
But just as the two mapmakers were close to completing their work, Senate President Matt Huffman, a member of the commission, intervened, arguing that because a court-ordered March 28 deadline for submitting the maps was fast approaching, there would be no time for commission members to change or offer their input on the maps.
Huffman said in light of the time constraints, the best course would be to offer the court a slightly revised version of a previous map, this one drafted by a state House Republican staffer.
According to the majority of justices on the court, the staffer, Blake Springhetti did so, producing the latest map in a single afternoon.
“The timeline of events demonstrates convincingly that the commission — or at least some members of the commission — when faced with one or more plans that closely matched constitutional requirements in the form of McDonald’s and Johnson’s plans, reverted to partisan considerations when time was running short, even though the potential for successful completion was high,” the majority justices wrote.
“Particularly problematic,” the justices said, was Huffman’s insistence that the mapmakers consider the addresses of incumbent House and Senate members in their district drawing, which the court said “pulled the rug out from under the independent map drawers.”
The Redistricting Commission now has until May 6 to come up with an entirely new plan.