(Bloomberg) — The US Supreme Court told an Ohio court to take a fresh look at a ruling that said a Republican-drawn congressional map was excessively partisan.
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The justices pointed to their June 27 decision rejecting a sweeping effort to transform the ground rules for federal elections. The approach, pressed in that case by North Carolina Republican lawmakers, sought to bar state judges from invoking their own constitutions to strike down gerrymandered maps and discriminatory voting rules.
The June 27 ruling, which centered on the US Constitution’s elections clause, included a qualification that said state courts “may not transgress the ordinary bounds of judicial review” in conducting that review.
Ohio Republicans are making similar arguments as their North Carolina counterparts, seeking to overturn a state supreme court decision that said the disputed map was so partisan it violated the Ohio constitution. Republicans picked up 10 of the 15 congressional seats in Ohio using GOP-drawn lines.
The Supreme Court order doesn’t necessarily mean the case will come out differently, but it gives lawmakers another chance before a reconstituted Ohio Supreme Court that has a new Republican appointee and could be more favorable to them.
Unlike North Carolina, Ohio has a constitutional provision that explicitly authorizes the state’s highest court to strike down excessively partisan voting maps. The provision, approved in 2018 by the Ohio General Assembly and the state’s voters, says the legislature “shall not pass a plan that unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents.”
The provision also sets up an unusual system that shifts responsibility for drawing maps to a redistricting commission if the legislature misses a deadline and then back to the General Assembly if the commission doesn’t act within a month.
Although the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision on July 19 last year, state lawmakers didn’t draw a new map for the 2022 election. Senate President Matt Huffman and other Republicans instead turned to the US Supreme Court and indicated they would wait for resolution of that appeal before taking action.
The case is Huffman v. Nieman, 22-362.
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