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Ohio’s congressional redistricting case moves back to state supreme court




Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, speaks with reporters. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal)

In an expected move, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday sent back an Ohio congressional redistricting appeal for reconsideration by the state’s highest court.

Following its decision in Moore v. Harper, in which a majority of the court rejected the concept of the independent state legislature theory, the court entered a short order regarding the Ohio case, directing the state supreme court to reconsider the case “in light of Moore v. Harper.”

The Moore v. Harper decision essentially rejected all of the arguments attorneys for Huffman and GOP leadership made for legislative authority over district maps.

Using a very old and often rejected legal theory, arguments were made in the North Carolina case that a state legislature holds power over the administration of elections, therefore rise above the scrutiny of the judicial system when setting voting districts.

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts said the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution “does not insulate state legislatures” from judicial review.

But the Ohio case, listed under the lead parties Senate President Matt Huffman and district map challenger Meryl Neiman, is headed back to a state supreme court with a new chief justice, one who led the dissent in each of the court’s rejections of congressional (and, for that matter, statehouse) redistricting maps, leading to the appeal sent to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy would have upheld the very first map presented to the court nearly two years ago, and every map thereafter.

Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio said Friday that if Moore v. Harper is applied correctly by the Ohio Supreme Court, the court would uphold its previous decision, rejecting the current congressional maps.

“What SCOTUS said in Moore was that legislatures must follow their state constitutions — consistent with what the Ohio Supreme Court already decided,” Levenson said.

Before the court made either decision regarding redistricting, Huffman told reporters it “may simply be that we have the same congressional districts for the 2024 race as the one we have now.”

Regarding the SCOTUS decision, Huffman released a statement on Friday praising the court’s move, and saying the appeal “clearly recognized serious constitutional concerns with the narrow majority opinions rendered under the former Chief Justice.

“We are reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court’s message to determine the path forward,” Huffman said in a statement.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission would need to be reconvened by Gov. Mike DeWine, but a spokesperson for the governor suggested that won’t happen until after the state budget is finalized.

Also of note is DeWine’s son, Pat DeWine, who is a sitting justice on the supreme court. Pat DeWine has recused himself from previous cases in which the court considered contempt proceedings on ORC members (including DeWine) for missing redistricting deadlines, but has not recused himself from general redistricting lawsuits coming before the state supreme court.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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