Ohio Republicans appeal congressional redistricting map to U.S. Supreme Court
Ohio's top Republican lawmakers announced Friday that they are appealing the Ohio Supreme Court's decision ruling the state's congressional map unconstitutional to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the state's 15-district congressional map as unconstitutional in July, for the second time. In a 4-3 decision, the court found that Republicans illegally drew districts to their own advantage in violation of voter-approved anti-gerrymandering rules. That map was used in the May primary and will be used in the November elections.
Those rules gave the Ohio Supreme Court authority to review Ohio's congressional map, but Republican lawmakers say the state court overstepped.
"While many believe that the Ohio Supreme Court majority misinterpreted state law, there is also the broader concern that the court assumed a role the federal constitution does not permit it to exercise," wrote Senate President Matt Huffman, Speaker Bob Cupp and two other Republican lawmakers in a joint statement. "This is a matter that needs resolution by our nation’s highest court."
Ohio Supreme Court ruled the 15-district congressional map unconstitutional in July
Each time the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a map, justices laid out a timeline − based on the Ohio Constitution − for drawing a new plan and an explanation as to why the previous one was rejected. But Huffman told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau in August that the Ohio Supreme Court doesn't have the power to tell the Ohio Legislature what to do.
"Can they order the Legislature to meet and pass bills with certain requirements and all of that? Can they order the Redistricting Commission to meet and make a decision, pass legislation in effect based on what they say needs to be in it?" Huffman said. "Clearly, the answer to that is no."
Huffman's argument mirrors a concept called the "independent state legislature theory," which argues that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures ultimate authority over the time, place and manner of elections for federal officials, such as U.S. representatives. Opponents say lawmakers don't have carte blanche over redistricting.
"This is just more hypocrisy and theatrics from Ohio’s General Assembly because the Ohio General Assembly gave the Ohio Supreme Court the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the congressional map," said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. "This is a fringe theory that they are hanging their hat on, but it doesn’t even apply in Ohio.”
The U.S. Supreme Court does not accept every case for review. It would make a determination on whether to take a closer look at Ohio Republicans' legal arguments.
High court review:Supreme Court to hear redistricting suit with deep implications for federal elections
The U.S. Supreme Court is already reviewing a North Carolina redistricting challenge to determine whether that state court overstepped in ruling on a case involving federal elections.
Gov. Mike DeWine, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the lawmakers' appeal.
"It’s certainly not a surprise," DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said. "The governor doesn’t usually comment on individuals exercising their rights to bring litigation under the law."
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.