The Ohio Supreme Court sent state lawmakers back to the drawing board to craft a map that adheres to redistricting reforms that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018.
The court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled that Ohio's GOP-controlled Legislature violated the state constitution by drawing a map that unduly favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones. The map could have given the GOP a 12-3 advantage in a state that voted for Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Donald Trump, twice.
The map needs an overhaul rather than small tweaks, Justice Michael Donnelly wrote in the court's decision: "In this case, the partisan gerrymandering used to generate the 2021 congressional-district plan, through undue party favoritism and/or undue governmental-unit splits, extends from one end of the state to the other."
What happens next is unprecedented. The anti-gerrymandering provisions were approved by nearly 75% of Ohio voters in 2018. This map was the first drawn under the new rules and Friday's Ohio Supreme Court decision marked the first attempt to interpret them.
Ohio lawmakers now have 30 days to draw a new map. If 60% of lawmakers and 33% of Democrats support it, that map would last 10 years, a Senate GOP spokesman said. Any map passed by Republicans without enough Democratic buy-in would last four years.
"Ohioans were clear that they wanted fairness, and it’s time for the legislature to deliver," said Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights. Republican legislative leaders, through spokesmen, said they were reviewing the decision.
If legislators don't approve a new map, the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission would have 30 days to craft a new plan, according to the state constitution. For a map to last 10 years, it would need support from both Democrats on the commission and at least two of the five Republicans.
Meanwhile, that commission was ordered Wednesday to redraw state House and Senate maps because of unconstitutional gerrymandering that favored Republican candidates. The commission has 10 days to complete that task, which is due Jan. 24.
If mapmakers take the full 60 days to enact a new congressional map, that would place them into mid-March. The deadline for congressional candidates to file paperwork is March 4. That date was already delayed once from Feb. 2.
Any legal challenges could delay the final map even further. What does that mean for Ohio's primary on May 3? That's not yet clear.
Republicans and Democrats have said that delaying the primary would be a headache they'd rather avoid. Any delay could extend several already acrimonious primaries, forcing candidates to spend more money.
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: What happens next in Ohio congressional redistricting case