Ohio’s Attorney General filed a motion Monday to block a federal court decision throwing out the state’s congressional map.
A three-judge panel last Friday ruled that Ohio’s map is an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander” and must be redrawn by June 14. Attorney General Dave Yost asked for a stay of the decision while he appeals the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently considering challenges to congressional maps in two other states.
Judges on the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati determined Ohio’s map was intentionally drawn "to disadvantage Democratic voters and entrench Republican representatives in power,” violating voters' right to choose their representatives. Under the ruling, Ohio lawmakers must pass a new congressional map by June 14, 2019, or have a new map drawn under the control of the court.
In his motion, Yost argues the deadline for a new map comes several weeks before the Supreme Court is likely to rule on similar cases in Maryland and North Carolina.
“This Court’s decision forces Ohio’s General Assembly to expend valuable legislative time and effort attempting to address an issue before a court-imposed deadline, even though the issue is likely to become moot just a couple of weeks later,” Yost writes.
The Attorney General says the lawsuit already “created confusion” due to uncertainty over upcoming election. He argues drawing a new map now may push candidates to not run, or voters to not participate, due to misunderstandings about district boundaries.
“If this Court’s ruling were to be affirmed, the voters of Ohio will have to vote under at least three different congressional district maps in three consecutive general elections,” Yost writes.
The court fight stems from a lawsuit filed last year by the League of Women Voters, ACLU and other voting rights organizations. The groups accuse Republicans of redrawing the congressional map in 2011 without Democratic input and with the intention of skewing the state’s House seats. Since the 2012 election, Ohio’s congressional seats have been locked at 12 Republicans and four Democrats.
Applying a three-part test to Ohio’s congressional map, the judges found the map’s boundaries were "intended to burden Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, had that effect, and the effect is not explained by other legitimate justifications."
Regardless of the Supreme Court case, Ohio is scheduled to get new congressional boundaries in 2021 as part of an amendment passed by voters last year. That proposal requires bipartisan input in the map-drawing process, but won’t affect an election until 2022.