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Ohio Supreme Court Tosses Maps, Throws State Primary Into Chaos

March 18, 2022 by Dan McCue
Ohio Supreme Court Tosses Maps, Throws State Primary Into Chaos
The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected new maps for state legislative districts for the third straight time. (Julie Carr Smyth/Associated Press)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court rejected a third set of state House and Senate maps on Wednesday, potentially throwing plans for the state’s upcoming May 3 primary election into chaos.

In response to the ruling, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose informed Gov. Mike DeWine and the leaders of the state House and Senate that barring intervention by a federal court, there is now simply no way to include contests for seats in the legislature in the May 3 primary. 

“The election effectively begins with the delivery of ballots to military and overseas voters,” LaRose wrote. “Due to the court’s order invalidating the third Ohio General Assembly district plan, it’s no longer logistically possible to include district-specific legislative races on the ballots without federal court intervention allowing the boards to proceed as scheduled.

“Let there be no doubt, however, that we will continue to prepare for a May 3 primary election that includes statewide, congressional and local contests, unless directed to do otherwise by the Ohio General Assembly or a court order,” LaRose said.

In response to the latest developments, the Ohio Association of Election Officials sent a letter of its own to Senate President Matt Huffman asking lawmakers to postpone the May 3 primary election altogether.

As in the case of two previous sets of maps drafted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, the state’s highest court tossed the last set on the grounds that they were overwhelmingly partisan, unlawfully favoring Republicans.

“We invalidate the … revised plan in its entirety,” the state Supreme Court said in a 4-3 ruling.

It also pointedly took aim at the process the seven-member Redistricting Commission has employed throughout the redistricting process, telling the panel it “must draft the maps” itself “rather than adopt maps that have been drafted solely by the Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate without consideration or participation from the Democratic members of the commission.”

The court went on to order the commission to draft new maps that conform with the Ohio Constitution and to do so in public at a series of meetings over the next 10 days.

The new maps are to be filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office no later than Monday, March 28 and a copy of the plan must be filed with the court the following day.

On Thursday morning, Gov. DeWine suggested having Democratic and GOP mapmakers “work together” on a fourth map.

DeWine, a Republican, told reporters that the GOP-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission could break the impasse with the court by instructing the two Republican staffers and one Democratic consultant to collaborate on a new map.

“I don’t know any other way of doing that than to get the three mapmakers, put them in a room, tell them to work together and tell them to follow the Constitution and to follow the Supreme Court,” DeWine said during an appearance at Columbus State Community College. 

He added that the mapmakers should make themselves and their work available to any commission member at any time.

“There are other options, but the Supreme Court has only given 10 days to do this,” the governor said, adding “The idea that we’re going to be able to go out and hire somebody new and have them do this work and do this work in 10 days, I think, presents some very significant challenges. 

“We have to try to follow the Supreme Court decision about the end result that they want,” he added.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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