The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio, and several individual Ohioans, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Ohio asserting new districts for the Ohio State House and State Senate were partisan gerrymanders that violated the Ohio Constitution.
In May 2018, Ohio voters amended the state Constitution to ban partisan gerrymandering. Under the amendments, districts could not be intentionally drawn to favor or disfavor a political party. Furthermore, the proportion of districts that leaned towards either political party was required to closely parallel Ohio’s statewide vote, based on the results of the state and federal elections held during the previous decade.
The amendment also created a new, multi-step process for state legislative redistricting. Redistricting is delegated to the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission (“Commission”), consisting of the Governor, State Auditor, Secretary of State, one member nominated by the Speaker of the State House, one member nominated by the President of the State Senate, and two members each nominated by the minority party leader in each chamber of the legislature. For the 2022 redistricting cycle, this meant Republicans had a 5 – 2 majority on the Commission.
Under the new redistricting process, if two or more members of the minority party vote for a proposed state legislative district map, then the districts would be in effect for ten years. If maps were passed purely on party lines, then the maps would only be in effect for four years.
In September 2021, the Commission adopted, on a 5 – 2 party-line vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against, new districts for the Ohio State House and State Senate.
On September 23, 2021, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio, and several individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court alleging the new maps violated the Ohio Constitution by disproportionately giving Republicans more districts. The plaintiffs also asserted that the Republican members of the commission intended to enact partisan gerrymanders throughout the redistricting process. Finally, the plaintiffs asserted the plan violated the Ohio Constitution’s equal protection, free speech, and assembly provisions.
The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the maps, ruling they were a partisan gerrymander in violation of the Ohio Constitution. In response, the Commission proceeded to enact four successive remedial maps on party lines, each of which was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court for being an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Each ruling was a 4 – 3 vote, with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joining all three Democratic Justices in invalidating the maps.
On November 8, 2022, elections were held for the Ohio General Assembly using maps ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Litigation is currently ongoing.
The League was represented in this matter by the ACLU of Ohio and Covington & Burling LLP.
LWV of Ohio files lawsuit
The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio, and several individual Ohioans file a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court, asserting newly enacted state legislative maps violated Article Eleven of the Ohio Constitution.
Court holds oral argument
Ohio Supreme Court strikes down maps
In a 4 – 3 vote, the court rules the maps are an illegal partisan gerrymander, finding that the Commission did not attempt to obey the Ohio Constitution’s ban on drawing districts to favor any political party, and that the maps did not reflect the preferences of Ohio voters in the previous decade’s statewide elections, in violation of the Ohio Constitution. The court orders the Commission to adopt new maps compliant with the Ohio Constitution within ten days.
Court strikes down Commission’s remedial maps
The court finds the Commission’s map violated the Ohio Constitution. In its ruling, the court declares that the Republican majority on the commission violated the proportionality requirement of the Ohio Constitution by improperly classifying swing districts as Democratic-leaning districts, while drawing maps that ensured Republicans would more easily obtain majorities. According to the court, this tactic was not good faith compliance with the Ohio Constitution.
Court strikes down Commission’s second set of remedial maps
The court rejects the second set of remedial maps submitted by the Commission, finding the maps were drawn by the Republican legislative leaders to favor Republicans, with no input by the Democratic members. The opinion also finds that the maps ensure Republicans could win approximately 75% of the seats in the state legislature with a 2% swing towards them in the statewide vote, while the Democrats would gain no seats under a similar shift in the statewide vote.
Court strikes down Commission’s third set of remedial maps
The court finds that the third set of remedial maps was a slightly revised version of the second set of remedial maps, with 31 of 33 State Senate and 92 of 99 State House districts unchanged from the previous proposed map. The court also finds that nearly all the swing districts were occupied by Democrats and cites expert analysis stating that, under the proposed maps, with a 50% statewide voter share, the Republicans could win 53% of State House seats, while Democrats would win just 44%.
Federal district court orders maps to be finalized by May 28
In a separate lawsuit, Gonidakis v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, a federal court orders the Commission to finalize a state legislative map by May 28, 2022. If the Commission failed to do so, the court would impose the map previously rejected by the court on April 14, 2022.
Court rejects Commission’s resubmitted remedial maps
The court declines to accept the Commission’s decision to resubmit the same maps it rejected in April. In its opinion, the court rules the Commission’s rationale that the federal court order of April 2022 justified this act did not relieve it of its duty to draw fair maps under the Ohio Constitution.
Elections for the Ohio General Assembly take place under unconstitutional maps
Ohio Redistricting Commission enacts new maps
The Ohio Redistricting Commission unanimously adopts new maps, agreeing to districts that would give Republicans an advantage in approximately sixty two percent of Ohio state House seats and seventy percent of Ohio state Senate seats.
LWV Ohio and partners move to object to the new maps. The motion argues that the court should review the new districts in accordance with its order striking down the previous maps before the November 2022 elections. The proposed objections assert the new maps are another partisan gerrymander, with nearly two-thirds of the seats learning Republican.
Court rejects motion and dismisses the case
The court denies the League's motion and grants defendants' motions to dismiss the case. The order states that since the newest plans were adopted with bipartisan support, the facts were not the same as those in previous complaints against the last four remedial maps, which were passed by a party line vote. Therefore, the current case was not a proper avenue to challenge the new maps.