The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio, and several individual Ohioans filed two successive lawsuits in the Ohio Supreme Court, asserting the state’s new Congressional maps violated the state constitution’s ban on partisan gerrymandering.
Note: For the reader’s convenience, the two lawsuits filed against successive versions of Ohio’s congressional maps were consolidated into a single timeline and case summary. The first case is LWV Ohio v. LaRose, filed on November 30, 2021, and the second is LWV Ohio v. LaRose (II), filed on March 22, 2022.
In 2018, Ohio voters amended the state Constitution to ban partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. The new amendment also created a new process for Congressional redistricting. The process would occur as follows:
If 60% of the members of the legislature, comprised of at least half of the Republican and Democratic caucuses in each chamber, passed new congressional maps by the end of September after the Census, the congressional maps enacted would be in effect for a decade.
If the legislature failed to pass a map under the above requirements by the September deadline, the Ohio Redistricting Commission was required to produce new congressional maps supported by at least a simple bipartisan majority by the end of October. The Commission’s maps would also last ten years if it followed this process.
Finally, if neither of the above methods produced new congressional districts, then the Ohio Legislature would again be tasked with drawing new maps. The legislature could either enact maps lasting ten years through a 60% vote, comprised of at least one-third of the Republican and Democratic caucuses in each chamber.
Alternatively, the legislature could enact maps by a simple majority which would only last for four years. If the legislature enacted maps by a simple majority, the maps were required to comply with the following guidelines: districts could not be drawn to unduly favor or disfavor a political party or incumbents, must be compact, and must not unduly split counties, townships, and municipal corporations.
The amendments also limited splitting counties or dividing cities with populations greater than that of a single congressional district (approximately 737,465) between multiple districts. The amendments also banned splitting up municipalities with populations between 100,000 and that of a congressional district.
Upon receipt of the 2020 Census data, the Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio failed to enact new Congressional maps before the September deadline. The Ohio Redistricting Commission, composed of a 5 – 2 Republican majority similarly failed to enact maps before the required deadline. On November 20, 2021, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law new congressional maps, which were passed by a simple majority with no support from Democrats.
On November 30, 2021, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, together with the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio and several individual Ohioans, filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court, asserting the new maps were a partisan gerrymander in violation of the Ohio Constitution. The complaint cited multiple statistical analyses that showed Republicans would gain significantly more seats than their statewide vote share indicated. According to the plaintiffs, this was accomplished through several methods, including the placement of two incumbent Democrats into new districts with a majority of Republican voters and splitting large, Democratic urban counties and combining them with strongly Republican rural areas.
On January 14, 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the maps as a partisan gerrymander, ordering the legislature to draw a nonpartisan, constitutionally compliant map within 30 days. The legislature failed to do so, and the Ohio Redistricting Commission, as required by the state Constitution, enacted a new map on March 2, 2022.
On March 22, 2022, LWV Ohio and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio filed a second lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court (LWV Ohio v. LaRose (II)), asserting several districts from the remedial maps passed by the Ohio Redistricting Commission violated the state Constitution’s requirements for districts. The complaint alleged that the new Fifteenth Congressional District was not compact and combined Democratic voters in Franklin County with several strongly Republican counties in Ohio. Furthermore, the plaintiffs argued that similar splits in Cuyahoga County, Summit County, and Hamilton County, which contain the cities of Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati, respectively, were intended to create more Republican districts while reducing the number of Democratic districts.
On July 19, 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered a new map to be drawn in thirty days. The new maps are to take effect for the 2024 election. Currently, the legislature has not drawn new congressional maps. On November 8, 2022, elections for Ohio’s Congressional delegation were held under maps found unconstitutional in the court’s July opinion.
On October 14, 2022, several Republican legislators appealed to the United States Supreme Court, asking for the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to be reversed, citing the Independent State Legislature Theory advanced in Moore v. Harper.
The League was represented in this matter by Covington and Burling LLP, ACLU of Ohio, and ACLU.
Ohio enacts new congressional maps
The Ohio legislature, on a party-line vote, passes new congressional maps that will be in effect for four years, after the Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to meet the constitutional deadline for enacting new maps.
LWV Ohio files lawsuit
LWV Ohio and its co-plaintiffs file a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court, asserting the new congressional districts violate the Ohio Constitution’s ban on partisan gerrymandering.
Ohio Supreme Court strikes down congressional maps
In a 4 – 3 decision, with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joining the three Democratic Justices, the Ohio Supreme Court strikes down the congressional maps as a partisan gerrymander that violated the Ohio Constitution.
Ohio Redistricting Commission passes new Congressional district map
The Ohio Redistricting Commission enacts a new Congressional districts map in response to the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling.
LWV of Ohio files second lawsuit (LWV Ohio v. LaRose (II)) against new maps
LWV of Ohio files a new lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing the plan enacted by the Commission was a partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans. The complaint asserts the map illegally split several large urban Democratic counties to ensure Republicans received a disproportionate share of seats.
Ohio Supreme Court strikes down remedial maps
In another 4 – 3 vote, with Republican Chief Justice O’Connor siding with the Democrats again, the Ohio Supreme Court strikes down the Commission’s remedial congressional map, finding the maps concentrated Democratic votes in a few districts to maximize the number of Republican districts. The court orders new, compliant maps to be drawn for the 2024 elections. The invalidated maps remain in effect for the 2022 election.
Ohio Republicans appeal to United States Supreme Court
Citing the Independent State Legislature Theory, several Republicans in the Ohio legislature appeal to the United States Supreme Court, requesting a reversal of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision.
Congressional elections take place
Congressional elections take place using the maps struck down by the court in its July ruling. Democrats win five Congressional seats while Republicans win ten seats, in a state that voted 53% to 45% for former President Trump in 2020.
LWV Ohio files opposition to petition
LWV Ohio opposes the petitioners’ request, asserting that the Ohio Supreme Court has the power to review the legislature’s redistricting decisions, because it was explicitly given the authority to do so by the legislature. The brief also argues the Elections Clause of the US Constitution does not forbid state supreme courts from applying and interpreting the state Constitution, which the Ohio Supreme Court’s did through its opinion striking down the remedial Congressional districts.