DemDaily: Redistricting Roundup Two: Key States

September 8, 2023

In the first seven months of 2023, more than 74 redistricting cases in 27 states were filed challenging congressional and legislative maps as racially discriminatory and/or partisan gerrymanders.

In addition to recent decisions in Alabama, Florida and Louisiana, there are key legal challenges to US House maps in at least eight other states, including, until Tuesday, Ohio.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing the new electoral boundaries of all 435 US House seats and 7,383 state legislative seats across 50 states. New maps are based on the decennial count of the US population by the US Census Bureau and determine the geographic and political makeup of Congress for the next ten years. Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing or manipulating those district lines to the unfair political advantage of a particular party or group.

On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed two cases challenging the state’s 2022 redistricting maps -- ending a two-year legal battle over a Republican-drawn congressional map that, despite being struck down by the high court, will be used again in 2024.

In 2018, Ohio voters passed a constitutional amendment to ban partisan gerrymandering, mandating that any map drawn under the decennial redistricting that is passed without bipartisan support must be redrawn in fours years -- as is the case with the 2022 map.

On January 14, 2022, a 4-3 majority of the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the Republican-controlled legislature’s redistricting map as unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republican to Democratic districts by a 12-3 margin. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, joined the three Democratic justices in striking down the map and sending it back to the General Assembly to redraw new lines that "proportionally reflect Ohio's voters" within 30 days.

After the legislature failed to meet the deadline, a second map, submitted in March 2022 and drawn by the Republican-led Ohio Redistricting Commission, was struck down on July 19 by the Ohio Supreme Court as one that still unconstitutionally favored Republicans. Though it was still being litigated, the map was used for the November 2022 congressional elections in Ohio, in which Democrats won just five out of 15 seats.

Republicans lawmakers appealed the state court's July 2022 ruling to the US Supreme Court, which on June 30, 2023 vacated the decision striking down the second map, and directed the case back to Ohio's high court for further consideration.

On Tuesday, the petitioners challenging the second congressional map in Neiman v. LaRose and League of Women Voters of Ohio v. LaRose requested the state court to dismiss the cases -- leaving in place the Commission's map for the 2024 elections.

Citing the "protracted process" of litigation, petitioners stated it was in the best interests of "the people of Ohio who deserve certainty about the congressional map that they will be voting under in this cycle." They also noted that the maps are “‘effective’ only through the 2024 election” as they will have to be redrawn under the gerrymandering ban instituted in 2018.

In the interim, the Ohio Redistricting Commission has until September 22 to redraw the state's House and Senate districts, as the plan currently in place was one of seven rejected as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Separately, signatures have been submitted to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2024 ballot, "to replace the current politician-run redistricting process with a citizen-led commission required to create fair state legislative and congressional districts through a more open and independent system."

The face of that bipartisan movement is former Justice O’Connor, who, after retiring from the State Supreme Court last December due to age limits, vowed to lead reform on the "broken" redistricting system.

On June 23, 2023, in a historic victory for voting rights advocates, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the North Carolina Supreme Court was acting within its authority in concluding that the new map drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature constituted a partisan gerrymander under the state constitution. The ruling in Moore v. Harper was significant as it rejected a fringe legal doctrine known as the "independent state legislature theory"(ISL) that would have radically expanded the power of state legislatures.

In other states, gerrymandered congressional maps are being challenged in trial or at the appellate level as unconstitutional in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Read more about the cases Here

DemList will keep you informed.

DemDaily: Redistricting Roundup One: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana 9/7/23
DemDaily: What is the Voting Rights Act? 8/823
DemDaily: Alabama v. The Voting Rights Act 7/25/23
DemDaily: Supreme Court Strikes Down GOP Election Doctrine 6/27/23
DemDaily: Supreme Court Upholds Voting Rights Act Foundation 6/13/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: SCOTUSBlog, Brennan Center, AP, The Hill, Democracy Docket, OhioCapitalJournal, Washington Post, CNN, NDRC

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