EXPLAINER: What’s ahead for Ohio’s unsettled political maps?

Dec 31, 2022, 6:08 PM | Updated: Jan 1, 2023, 8:46 am
FILE - Ohio Elections Chief Frank LaRose, right, talks about his desire for a new, 10-year map of t...

FILE - Ohio Elections Chief Frank LaRose, right, talks about his desire for a new, 10-year map of the state's legislative districts at a meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, Aug. 31, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio, as Rep. Emilia Sykes, of Akron, listens. The election contests of 2022 may have been held and decided, but Ohio’s political maps remain far from settled. What was supposed to be a once-per-decade process for redrawing the state’s U.S. House and Statehouse districts to reflect updated 2020 population figures now promises to extend into 2023, and probably longer. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins, File)

              FILE - Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is pictured in her chambers at the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 15, 2022. The election contests of 2022 may have been held and decided, but Ohio’s political maps remain far from settled. What was supposed to be a once-per-decade process for redrawing the state’s U.S. House and Statehouse districts to reflect updated 2020 population figures now promises to extend into 2023, and probably longer. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth, File)
            
              FILE - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine answers a question while taking part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference, Nov. 16, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. The election contests of 2022 may have been held and decided, but Ohio’s political maps remain far from settled. What was supposed to be a once-per-decade process for redrawing the state’s U.S. House and Statehouse districts to reflect updated 2020 population figures now promises to extend into 2023, and probably longer. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
            
              FILE - A map of Ohio congressional districts is displayed during a committee hearing at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 16, 2021. The election contests of 2022 may have been held and decided, but Ohio’s political maps remain far from settled. What was supposed to be a once-per-decade process for redrawing the state’s U.S. House and Statehouse districts to reflect updated 2020 population figures now promises to extend into 2023, and probably longer. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth, File)
            
              FILE - Ohio Elections Chief Frank LaRose, right, talks about his desire for a new, 10-year map of the state's legislative districts at a meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, Aug. 31, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio, as Rep. Emilia Sykes, of Akron, listens. The election contests of 2022 may have been held and decided, but Ohio’s political maps remain far from settled. What was supposed to be a once-per-decade process for redrawing the state’s U.S. House and Statehouse districts to reflect updated 2020 population figures now promises to extend into 2023, and probably longer. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The election contests of 2022 may have been held and decided, but Ohio’s political maps remain far from settled.

It was supposed to be a once-per-decade process for redrawing the state’s U.S. House and Statehouse districts, in order to reflect updated population figures from the 2020 Census. Now it promises to extend into 2023, and probably longer.

While most U.S. states managed to eventually settle their map disputes, Ohio’s protracted ordeal has trapped it in a uniquely confounding legal stalemate.

Here’s a look at how Ohio got here, and what may (or may not) come next:

___

HOW DID THE NEW MAPMAKING PROCESS WORK?

This was the first time Ohio tried out new ways of drawing congressional and legislative maps.

In 2015, Ohio voters were looking to avoid partisan gerrymandering, and voted overwhelmingly to empower a new, bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission to draw Statehouse maps. Those are the districts of the state senators and representatives whom voters send to Columbus.

Under the new rules, if both political parties said yes to the new boundaries, the maps would be in place for a full decade. Single-party support would result in a four-year map.

In 2018, another successful constitutional amendment was also wildly popular with voters. It set up a new system for drawing the state’s U.S. House districts — that is, the districts of the representatives that voters send to Washington.

The state Legislature would get the first crack at drawing the lines. If they failed, the commission would be next. If it failed, then the Legislature could try a final time. A three-fifths majority of the minority party — in this case, Democrats — would need to agree to the new map for it to be in place for 10 years. Barring that, again, it would last only four years.

As it turned out, the seeming incentives for bipartisan compromise failed and Democrats didn’t cast a single vote for any of the final maps, which were all Republican-drawn.

___

WHAT POWER DID THE NEW SYSTEM GIVE THE STATE’S HIGH COURT?

Voters gave the Ohio Supreme Court “exclusive, original jurisdiction” to decide legal challenges, which included three lawsuits against the legislative maps and two lawsuits against the congressional map.

In a series of 4-3 votes, the court struck down every map they were sent. The court said the maps unduly benefited one party: Republicans. Those maps included two separate congressional maps — one approved by lawmakers in November 2021 and a second that cleared the redistricting commission in March 2022 — and five sets of Statehouse maps.

___

YET OHIO’S ELECTIONS HAPPENED ANYWAY?

That’s right. Amid the legal clashes of the past year, courts allowed Ohio to go forward with May and August primaries under unconstitutional maps.

This fall, Republicans won 10 of Ohio’s 15 congressional seats under the disputed U.S. House map (although Democrats netted several notable wins ). The disputed Statehouse maps yielded even larger Republican supermajorities.

But the maps aren’t valid beyond this election cycle. They will need to be redrawn.

OK, SO THE MAPS DIDN’T FLY. WERE THERE CONSEQUENCES?

That’s the conundrum. Even as they missed deadlines and flouted court instructions, Republicans argued that they were doing all they could to understand and interpret a fledgling process. The court’s orders were unreasonable and conflicting, they said.

The voting-rights and Democratic groups that won seven consecutive rounds in court argued for lawmakers or commissioners to be held in contempt of court.

Ultimately, the justices balked. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor told The Associated Press in a year-end interview that she feared taking such action would create a constitutional crisis.

Importantly, the Ohio Supreme Court had no other enforcement options available to it. The new system neither allowed the court to impose a particular map — say, one favored by the suing parties or developed by experts — nor to draw their own.

___

WHERE DO THOSE CASES STAND NOW?

Ohio’s congressional map dispute is now awaiting action in the U.S. Supreme Court, where Republican legislative leaders have appealed for a review of their loss in state court.

The case could be considered in conjunction with the closely watched Moore v. Harper case, whose oral arguments were held in December. That case seeks to resolve whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision giving state legislatures the power to make the rules about the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections means state courts can be cut out of the process.

If Ohio’s appeal is denied, Republican Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp has said lawmakers will then have 30 days to pass a new congressional map. But the high court’s decision isn’t expected for months.

Meanwhile, Ohio’s legislative maps expired with the November 2022 election — on orders of a federal court. The Ohio Redistricting Commission will have to come back together and make new, constitutionally compliant maps in time for 2024 elections. The state constitution says that process can’t begin before July 1 of this year. Lawsuits challenging Statehouse maps, which ended in a draw this summer, remain open.

___

HAVE OHIO’S POLITICAL DYNAMICS CHANGED?

Yes and no. The Ohio Redistricting Commission — made up of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four lawmakers — remained 5-2 in Republicans’ favor after the November elections.

Cupp, a key player in the redistricting saga, is retiring, but his successor will also be Republican.

But the Ohio Supreme Court’s political leaning may have changed.

O’Connor, a Republican who was a key swing vote on the court, retired Saturday because of age limits. The ascension of her successor, GOP Justice Sharon Kennedy, left a court vacancy to which Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has appointed Republican Joe Deters, the longtime Hamilton County prosecutor.

Time will tell whether Deters sides with the 7-member court’s other three Republican justices — unlike O’Connor — altering earlier case outcomes.

For her part, O’Connor has announced plans to pursue redistricting reforms in the Ohio Constitution, likely the type of independent commission she wrote about in one of her decisions. Many others are collaborating on similar efforts. The timing of any ballot campaign hasn’t been determined.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Paul Njoroge, right, points to photos of his wife and three children that were killed in the 2019 c...
Associated Press

Boeing pleads not guilty in case over deadly Max crashes

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Boeing pleaded not guilty Thursday to a charge that it misled regulators who approved its 737 Max, the plane that was involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. Family members of passengers who died gave emotional testimony, calling for criminal prosecution of top Boeing officials. The families are trying […]
20 hours ago
abortion Capital gains tax Olympia meeting legislature abortion...
Associated Press

Washington lawmakers hear testimony on 7 abortion bills

Abortion rights proposals have been front and center in Olympia, Washington, this week as state lawmakers heard hours of public testimony on seven proposals that would reinforce abortion access.
20 hours ago
FILE - The sun dial near the Legislative Building is shown under cloudy skies, March 10, 2022, at t...
Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Justices weigh effort to balance Washington state’s tax code

SEATTLE (AP) — An effort to balance what is considered the nation’s most regressive state tax code came before the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday, with justices hearing arguments about whether they should overturn a prohibition on income taxes that dates to the 1930s. Washington is one of nine states without an income tax, and […]
20 hours ago
Passengers coming from China arrive at the Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, o...
Associated Press

South Korea extends restrictions on travelers from China

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says it will continue to restrict the entry of short-term travelers from China through the end of February over concerns that the spread of COVID-19 in that country may worsen following the Lunar New Year’s holidays. South Korea in early January stopped issuing most short-term visas at its […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Man appears in federal court to face Capitol riot charges

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A mid-Michigan man says he’s innocent of the charges brought against him in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot in Washington. Isaac Thomas of Genesee County appeared in U.S. District Court in Flint on Thursday, WJRT-TV reported. “I was being told I was being charged with one count of […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

1 year, 1 day in prison for lawyer in police car firebombing

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer who purchased gasoline that another lawyer used in firebombing an unoccupied New York City police car during protests over George Floyd’s death in 2020 was sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in prison. Colinford Mattis, appearing in federal court, was also ordered to pay just over $30,000 […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
EXPLAINER: What’s ahead for Ohio’s unsettled political maps?