Ohio Supreme Court rolls out fourth legislative map in chaotic redistricting process

Ohio Supreme Court has nullified the fourth legislature redistribution plan on Thursday, say the rose drew a map virtually unchanged the previously rejected version and does not comply with the new state anti-gerrymandering rules.

In its March 4 decision, the court ordered the Ohio Regional Redistricting Commission to produce another map by May 6, three days after the state was originally supposed to hold its legislative primaries. France.

Elections officials have said that approved maps should be available by April 20 to hold the state legislative primaries by the latest possible date – August 2. But the court set argue that that timeline is “speculation” and won’t force them to approve new maps.

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Ohio will still hold a May 3 primaries for congressional and statewide races, unaffected by the state Legislature’s redistribution debate.

The return is the latest setback in a protracted battle between Republicans who control the Redistricting Commission and the state’s high court, which has positioned itself as determined to implement reforms. redistricting the state. The state Supreme Court consists of four Republicans and three Democrats.

After the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the third set of maps and threatened to hold a commission to redistribute the land in contempt of court, the commission seems to have taken a different approach in drawing the line. legislative. It hired independent cartographers — paying them close to $100,000 — and hired a mediator. The process is live-streamed, allowing the public to view the drawn maps in real time, and voting rights advocates are optimistic that the resulting maps will be fair and legal.

But on the final day of the mapping effort, as independent cartographers struggled to meet a court-ordered deadline, a majority of Republicans on the committee proposed and quickly approved it. a set of maps that a GOP employee worked alongside.

The judges wrote in an unsigned majority opinion on Thursday: “What began as a ‘historic’ process evolved into the same one-way partisan mapping that makes them all I disabled the previous three plans.

Justice Michael P. Donnelly, a Democrat, had even sharper words in a concurring position.

“Only when the independent cartographers came close to showing that the difficulty was achievable did the majority members of the committee draw conclusions about the process,” he writes.

The concurring judges criticized members of the committee – particularly Republican Senate Chairman Matt Huffman – for actions they say slowed and prevented independent cartographers from completing their job.

Some Republican judges consider the state Supreme Court’s order an excessive violation.

“We are stuck in a time loop, like the characters in the movie Groundhog Day,” wrote Justice Sharon Kennedy in a dissenting opinion. “A continued majority denying this limitation of court power could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

Jen Miller, executive director of the Ohio Federation of Women Voters, said she hopes the latest decision will eventually go into effect. The union is one of the plaintiffs that has repeatedly challenged the commission’s maps.

“The bottom line, our priority is the fair map,” Miller told NBC News. “All I can do is remain hopeful.”

This is the first redistricting process since the state implemented a new committee process that includes asking a bipartisan group of state officials to produce a compact and unobtrusive map of the state legislature. designed to promote one party over another. However, deep-rooted partisan ideology has hindered the prospects of compromise that advocates seek.

The costs of failed efforts are adding up: In addition to the nearly $100,000 paid to cartographers, taxpayers will now have to fund a second primary. State lawmakers have chosen not to move the state’s May 3 primary for the statewide and congressional races, meaning the state will need to hold a second primary for the legislative races. , costing taxpayers about $20 million, House Leader Allison Russo, a Democrat on the committee, told NBC News.

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