In a ruling issued Wednesday, the state’s Redistricting Commission was ordered back to come up with a fourth plan for the state’s Senate and House of Representatives districts.
In its ruling, the court gave the commission until 9 a.m. on March 29 to submit a plan, with the plan needing to be on the desk of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose by March 28.
The court also ordered the commission to hold “frequent” public meetings to “demonstrate their bipartisan efforts to reach a constitutional plan” before the deadline.
This latest set of maps was approved in a 4-3 vote on Feb. 24 and almost immediately challenged by voting rights advocates. The current court ruling lists the Ohio League of Women Voters and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative among the petitioners.
The rejected maps created 54 likely Republican seats in the Ohio House, 26 likely Democratic seats, and 19 competitive seats; in the Senate, the breakdown was 18 likely Republican, eight likely Democratic, and seven competitive.
According to data from the state, the political breakdown for Ohio is 54 percent Republican, 46 percent Democratic.
“Substantial and compelling evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the main goal of the individuals who drafted the second revised plan was to favor the Republican Party and disfavor the Democratic Party,” the court wrote in its decision.
The court’s decision further states that Senate President Matt Huffman told the media he and House Speaker Bob Cupp had been working on the latest plan since Feb. 11 — a fact that was not disclosed to other members of the commission until its Feb. 22 meeting.
“The Democratic members of the commission had no opportunity to provide input in creating the second revised plan, and they had no meaningful opportunity to review and discuss it or to propose amendments once it was presented at the commission hearing on February 22, 2022,” the court wrote.
The court’s ruling will likely delay the May 3 primary election as military and overseas voting is set to begin in two days.
In the court’s dissenting opinion, Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Pat DeWine wrote that the court has “shifted the goalposts” by imposing requirements on the commission that were not found in the Ohio constitution, accusing the other five justices of trying to commandeer the redistricting process.
“Through its actions today, the majority undermines the democratic process, depriving the voters of the constitutional amendment they enacted and leaving in its place only the majority’s policy preferences,” the dissenting opinion states. “In so doing, it threatens the very legitimacy of this court.”
House Minority Leader and member of the redistricting commission, Allison Russo, said in a statement that the commission’s Republican majority is “not above the law.”
“For a third time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the majority party is not above the law and cannot blatantly disregard the will of Ohio voters and the Ohio Constitution,” Russo’s statement reads. “Democrats have a state legislative map proposal ready to go that is fair, constitutional, and closely reflects the statewide voting preferences of Ohioans. Now, it is up to the Republican Commissioners to work with us to adopt the fair maps Ohioans deserve.”