COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A three-judge federal panel has set an ultimatum for Ohio’s redistricting commission — pass acceptable maps setting Ohio Senate and House of Representatives districts by May 28 or implement a set of maps already declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In a judgment issued Wednesday, the court said if the commission cannot reach an agreement on a new set of maps, the third set of maps approved by the commission would be implemented.
That set of maps, initially approved on Feb. 24, would give Republicans a 54-45 district advantage in the House and 18-15 district advantage in the Senate. Opponents of that set of maps argued the Republican districts would not be competitive in elections while 19 House and 7 Senate districts for the Democrats were.
The court said it decided on the third set of maps because Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose had already ordered county board of elections to begin election preparations using that set of maps before he told them to “press pause” after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected that set of maps. This work already completed by the boards shortens the timeline between selection and election, the court wrote in its ruling.
The court said it should only serve as a last resort in the election process, and that it encourages the commission to come up with new bipartisan maps before the May 28 deadline.
The ruling agrees with LaRose, who said the drop-dead date for a second primary election this year would be Aug. 2. The court said if there are no new maps from the commission by the deadline, then that would be the date of Ohio’s second primary election.
As of Wednesday night, there are no meetings of the redistricting commission scheduled. The commission’s rules state three of the seven members need to be present for a meeting to be held.
The federal court’s ruling is below.
Commission member, Ohio House minority leader Allison Russo, one of two Democrats on the commission, issued a statement following the court’s ruling. It reads, in full:
“Tonight, the federal court showed that they do not appreciate the Republican commissioners passing the buck. The federal court gave us another six weeks to draw state legislative maps. Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court directed us to produce constitutional maps by May 6. We have work to do, and we need to start now. We have the time, resources, and ability to do this right. We will not quit. We will never stop fighting for Ohioans’ freedom to vote in fair districts.”