Ohio Supreme Court overturns state’s congressional district boundaries; map to still be used for 2022 elections

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on July 19, 2022, that the congressional district boundaries that the Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted on March 2 were unconstitutional. Since the state’s 2022 primary elections were held on May 3 using the overturned districts, this year’s congressional elections will take place using the existing boundaries.

The state supreme court directed the Ohio General Assembly to pass a compliant plan within 30 days. If the general assembly fails to do so, the court ordered the redistricting commission to then adopt a plan within 30 days. The state would use that map for its 2024 congressional elections.

Since the boundaries that the redistricting commission adopted in March 2022 did not receive support from any commission members of the minority party, it would have been in effect for only four years. Under the constitutional amendment establishing the redistricting commission that voters approved in 2018, the commission was required to enact a new map after the 2024 elections.

Justices Maureen O’Connor, Michael Donnelly, and Melody Stewart signed the state supreme court’s majority opinion with Justice Jennifer Brunner filing a concurring opinion. Justices Sharon Kennedy, Pat DeWine, and Pat Fischer wrote or joined dissenting opinions.

The court’s opinion said, “Petitioners have satisfied their burden by showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the March 2 plan unduly favors the Republican Party in violation of Article XIX, Section 1(C)(3)(a) of the Ohio Constitution. Comparative analyses and other metrics show that the March 2 plan allocates voters in ways that unnecessarily favor the Republican Party by packing Democratic voters into a few dense Democratic-leaning districts, thereby increasing the Republican vote share of the remaining districts. As a result, districts that would otherwise be strongly Democratic-leaning are now competitive or Republican-leaning districts.”

The dissenting opinion signed by Justices Kennedy and DeWine said, “We disagree, however, with the majority’s conclusion that the March 2 plan is invalid because it violates Article XIX, Section 1(C)(3)(a) of the Ohio constitution for ‘unduly favor[ing] or disfavor[ing] a political party or its incumbents.’…Therefore, we would hold that the March 2 plan is constitutional and order its use for the 2024 primary and general elections. Because the majority does otherwise, we dissent.”

Governor Mike DeWine (R) first signed a new congressional map into law on November 20, 2021, after the state Senate voted to approve it 24-7 and the state House approved it 55-36. On January 14, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s enacted congressional map and ordered the legislature to redraw it. The Ohio Redistricting Commission approved redrawn congressional boundaries in a 5-2 vote along party lines.

Additional reading:

Ohio Supreme Court

Mike DeWine

Redistricting in Ohio