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Ohio Supreme Court rules new redistricting maps be drawn

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Ohio Supreme Court rules new redistricting maps be drawn
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled invalid new redistricting maps that leaned 67 House seats to 32 for the Republican Party. Photo courtesy of Ohio Secretary of State

Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled Wednesday that newly approved redistricting maps must be redrawn to comply with the state's Constitution as the ones recently adopted disproportionately favor the Republican Party.

The state's highest court ruled 4-3 that the maps, drawn by the Republican-leaning Ohio Redistricting Commission and approved in September to be in place four years, did not mirror statewide voter preferences in violation of voter-approved provisions of the state's Constitution.

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In the opinion, the justices ordered the commission to adopt a new plan within 10 days and said they will review the new maps.

The ruling comes in three separate lawsuits brought against the maps.

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"The Ohio Supreme Court's decision is huge," Freda Levenson, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which filed one of the lawsuits against the maps, said in a statement. "It not only orders the immediate drawing of a new, constitutional map, but it also validates that Ohio's voter-enacted constitutional prohibition that partisan gerrymandering is not merely 'aspiration' -- it has real teeth."

The state's Republican governor, Mike DeWine, who is a member of the redistricting commission, said they will comply with the court's order.

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"Throughout this process, I expected that Ohio's legislative maps would be litigated and that the Ohio Supreme Court would make a decision on their constitutionality," he said in a statement. "I will work with my fellow redistricting commission member on revised maps that are consistent with the court's order."

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At question was whether the maps disproportionately favored the Republican Party compared to voter preferences.

The maps, the court said, leaned to the Republican Party 67 seats to 32 in the House and 23 seats to 10 in the Senate despite the past decade of voting history seeing Republican candidates win 54% of the vote share to Democratic candidates taking 46%.

"It is possible to draw a plan that is compliant with Article XI and that does not favor the majority party to the overwhelming extent that the adopted plan does," the court wrote.

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The majority said in their opinion that the commission did not attempt to draw maps that meet the standards of partisan fairness and proportionality.

"Now we call on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to do what voters and the Ohio Supreme court expect: draw maps that keep communities together and represent the right of every Ohio voter to have fair districts," said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, which was behind one of the three cases against the maps.

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The ruling was made a day after a trial court in North Carolina ruled that maps drawn heavily in favor of the Republican Party did not violate the state's constitution, stating redistricting was an inherently political process.

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