Federal Judge: Ohio's Congressional Map Is an 'Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymander'

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 03, 2019

The United States is a representative democracy, so instead of everyone voting on everything all the time, we vote for elected officials to represent our interests and vote on our behalf. But how do we choose those representatives, and more importantly, how do we decide how many representatives we'll need and exactly who they'll represent?

This is decided by voting districts, and drawing the lines around those districts has become a hot-button political topic in the past few years. Several states have had their congressional districts ruled unconstitutionally "gerrymandered," meaning those lines have been drawn for an impermissible reason. And now Ohio can add their name to that list, as a federal judge ruled that the state must redraw it's congressional map before the 2020 election.

"Likely Partisan Effects"

"These national Republicans generated some of the key strategic ideas for the map, maximizing its likely pro-Republican performance, and had the authority to approve changes to the map before their Ohio counterparts implemented them," according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. "Throughout the process, the Ohio and national map drawers made decisions based on their likely partisan effects."

Therefore, the three judges determined the map was intentionally drawn "to disadvantage Democratic voters and entrench Republican representatives in power." And while that kind of partisan gerrymandering has been, up until recently, an unspoken rule of the political game, Ohio apparently took the game a step too far.

"Not Explained by Other Legitimate Justifications"

Evidence was presented that Ohio's current map was drawn in a Columbus hotel room in 2011 by Republican state lawmakers and party consultants, with express design to maintain a three-to-one party advantage in Congress. And it worked, apparently: NPR reports Ohio's congressional delegation has been locked in at 12 Republicans and four Democrats since 2012.

Election experts "demonstrated that levels of voter support for Democrats can and have changed, but the map's partisan output remains stubbornly undisturbed," according to the court. Ohio's congressional map was "intended to burden Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, had that effect, and the effect is not explained by other legitimate justifications."

State officials will likely appeal the decision, as the U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing similar challenges to congressional maps from Maryland and North Carolina.

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