In a 4-3 decision Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the state’s new congressional cards, saying Republicans had illegally submitted districts that strongly favor IDP candidates.
The court’s opinion, written by Judge Michael Donnelly, concluded that Republicans violated a state constitutional amendment banning gerrymandering that Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted to approve in 2018.
“When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins,” the opinion reads. “It might explain how a party that generally does not collect more than 55 percent of the nationwide popular vote is positioned to reliably win from 75 percent to 80 percent of the seats in the Ohio Congress delegation. By any rational measure. that skewed result just does not beat. “
Ohio leans Republican, but out of 15 congressional districts the new cards are contains only four Democratic-minded or competitive districts. As a particular exceptional example of gerrymandering, the card’s opponents regularly cited Hamilton County, a district with a large black population, where Joe Biden received 57 percent of the vote. In 2011, Ohio lawmakers split Hamilton County – which includes Cincinnati – in half and linked the two pieces to strong Republican districts, to ensure that the majority Democratic county would have conservative representation. In 2021, Republican lawmakers went even further, dividing the county into three pieces and folding it into rural, majority-white districts.
As a result, the National Redistricting Action Fund – a voting rights organization run by former Attorney General Eric Holder – and a number of groups, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio, have challenged the cards in court.
As a result of Friday’s rulings, Democrats may have a chance to win two or three additional seats, according to Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.
With the possibilities for a federal suffrage bill eclipse, this decision has powerfully demonstrated the importance of the state’s Supreme Court elections in places where judges are elected by voters. In 2020, Democrat Jennifer Brunner overturned a seat held by Republican Judith French. Despite the blatant distortion of the new districts, only a single Republican judge, Maureen O’Connor, joined the state’s three liberal judges in rejecting the legislature’s cards. If Brunner had failed in her election offer, the court could very well have accepted cards that, according to a majority of current judges, were overwhelmingly “determined by biased considerations”.
Ohio lawmakers now have one month to sign a new card.