(WKBN) – On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court threw out voting maps for the House and Senate, saying that the maps are gerrymandered and unconstitutional.
The vote was 4 to 3 with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joining the three Democrats on the court to vote against the maps.
The court opinion said Republican legislative leaders did not even attempt to comply with the political standards required in the constitutional language.
Now, the Ohio Redistricting Commission has 10 days to fix the maps and submit them to the court for approval.
We spoke with advocates for voting rights who are calling this decision a win for Democracy.
“We saw what we’ve always seen — backdoor deals, breakdown of talks along party lines and ultimately maps that put candidates before the will of the people,” said Jen Miller, with the League of Women Voters of Ohio.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio has been working since the ’70s to advocate for fair voting practices. They filed a lawsuit against the new Republican drawn maps.
“We see this as a victory for Ohio voters because when maps are rigged for one party or one candidate, it hurts every Ohio voter,” Miller said.
In 2015, voters approved new stipulations to map drawing in order to cut down on favoring one party. This is the first map drawn with the new guidelines.
“The map failed to comply with these anti-gerrymandering provisions,” said Freda Levenson, legal director at ACLU of Ohio.
ACLU of Ohio also contested the maps. Districts are supposed to be drawn so that they roughly reflect how people tend to vote.
“In Ohio, about 54 percent of the votes for Ohio Senate or Ohio House overall lean Republican, but what we saw were maps that were well over that — three quarters, 75, 80 percent,” Miller said.
Now, the redistricting committee will have 10 days to submit a new map to the Ohio Supreme Court to review and determine if it complies with the law.
“Politicians will have to comply, they won’t be choosing their voters. The voters will be choosing their politicians which is the way democracy should work,” Levenson said.
Right now, the deadline for candidates to file to run for state office is Feb. 2. Wednesday’s court ruling could push back that deadline.
Ohio’s Congressional maps are also being challenged in federal court. Attorney Percy Squire filed the suit on behalf of Black voters in Youngstown. The lawsuit contends the new Congressional districts discriminate against Black voters.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Adams in Akron placed a 60 day stay on the case. He’s waiting to see how the Ohio Supreme Court rules on a challenge to the Congressional map.