Calling the actions of Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission a “stunning rebuke of the rule of law,” the Ohio Supreme Court rejected for a fifth time a set of Ohio House and Senate district maps.
The decision came three days before a deadline set by federal judges, who said they would implement maps ruled unconstitutional if no new legal maps were created.
The court, which denied motions to hold commission members in contempt of court, ordered the commission to redraw maps by June 3. However, a group of federal appeals judges earlier voted 2-1 to implement the maps ruled twice unconstitutional May 28 and set the state’s second primary for Aug. 2.
Republicans had resubmitted the third set of maps – tossed out once before by the court – because they said they did not have time to draw new maps.
Commission co-chairman Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, commended the ruling. No Republican member of the commission commented.
“We are fortunate that the Ohio Supreme Court insists on forcing the Redistricting Commission to comply with the redistricting reforms overwhelmingly adopted by the voters,” Sykes tweeted. “However, to this day, Ohioans don’t have state legislative maps that comply with our constitution.”
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, in a concurring opinion, said the court has been placed in a “remarkable position.”
“With the reassurance provided by a federal district court, that continuing delays and inaction would be rewarded with the implementation of a previously rejected map, respondent Ohio Redistricting Commission has, contrary to this court’s clear order, resubmitted an unconstitutional General Assembly–district plan and, in doing so, has engaged in a stunning rebuke of the rule of law,” she said.
O’Connor also said the federal court showed Republican commissioners how to avoid creating constitutional maps and gave them the go-ahead to do it.
“Instead, the federal court provided the Republican commission members not only a roadmap of how to avoid discharging their duties but also a green light to further delay these,” O’Connor wrote.
She also said the federal court’s concerns regarding election timing were created by the commission.
The opinion reads, “…each of the federal court’s concerns was created by the commission’s lack of action—which is in direct defiance of its constitutional duties and this court’s four prior judgments—and all those concerns were then, and are now, fully capable of resolution by the commission or the General Assembly.”
“The Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio Constitution should not be held hostage by a redistricting commission acting according to partisan directives and a legislature that has created a crisis due to its own inaction,” O’Connor continued. “Any threat to Ohioans’ right to vote in this scenario stems entirely from the commission’s repeated failures to comply with this court’s rulings and the General Assembly’s refusal to set a workable primary date. The remedy, then, should not be the approval of an unconstitutional map that rewards those who created the crisis to begin with. The remedy, instead, must be to craft a resolution of the manufactured crisis by those with the authority to do so – the commission and the legislature."
House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington and a member of the commission, called the GOP continues to violate the state constitution.
“There is no liberty or justice for the people of Ohio when a handful of politicians in power continue to violate the constitution and rig the rules in their own favor – against taxpayers and voters,” Russo said. “This ‘above the law’ arrogance tears at the very fabric of what it means to be American – having your voice heard and your vote count.”