Ohio State Supreme court throws out GOP-led redistricting map: ‘When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins’

Congress at sunset
The US Capitol. Stock photo via Getty Images
  • The Ohio state Supreme Court threw out the state’s GOP-biased congressional district map. 
  • The court found that lawmakers violated the state’s anti-gerrymandering amendment. 
  • The ruling is a silver lining for House Demcorats as they try to hang on to a razor-thing majority.

The Ohio State Supreme Court has thrown out Republican-drawn congressional district maps.

Friday’s 4-3 ruling marks the first time this redistricting cycle that a court has rejected a state’s proposed congressional district maps. The ruling could very well benefit Democrats as they try to hang on to their razor-thin US House majority.

“When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins,” wrote Justice Michael Donnelly in the court’s opinion. “That perhaps explains how a party that generally musters no more than 55% of the statewide popular vote is positioned to reliably win anywhere from 75 percent to 80% of the seats in the Ohio congressional delegation. By any rational measure, that skewed result just does not add up.”

Ohio, currently represented by 12 Republicans and four Democrats in Congress, lost a House seat as a result of the 2020 Census. 

The map drawn by Ohio Republicans had 13 Republican-leaning districts and two heavily Democratic districts based in Cleveland and Columbus. It eliminated Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan’s Youngstown-based district, made Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s district more Republican, and split Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, into three different GOP-leaning congressional districts represented by Republicans. 

Dave Wasserman, the House editor at the Cook Political Report and an expert on congressional districting, said Democrats could end up netting two or three more seats out of a new map.

Democrats hold a five-seat House majority, so any ground they can make up or maintain in the once-in-a-decade redrawing of districts is vital to keeping the chamber. Republicans already have the wind of history at their backs given the trend of the president’s party typically struggling in a midterm election.

 

In its opinion, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers failed to heed the will of voters who passed an anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment in 2018 which says leaders cannot create maps that “unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents.”

“The bill resulted in districts in which undue political bias is—whether viewed through the lens of expert statistical analysis or by application of simple common sense—at least as if not more likely to favor Republican candidates than the 2011 reapportionment that impelled Ohio’s constitutional reforms,” Donnelly wrote.

Friday’s ruling comes a few days after the state Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s new state legislative district maps for being gerrymandered. 

The Columbus Dispatch reported that the Ohio Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor was a key vote in the 4-3 decision to reject the map. Ohio lawmakers now have 30 days to redraw a new map.