Court strikes down Ohio gerrymander: GOP maps ‘so skewed’ they ‘predetermined’ election results

While the chances the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold this ruling are slim, 2020's state Supreme Court races are a critical opportunity for Democrats and voters to enforce fairer redistricting.

Comparison of the 2018 House outcome under Ohio's GOP congressional gerrymander with a hypothetical nonpartisan map

Stephen Wolf,

On Friday, a federal district court delivered a major win against Republican gerrymandering when it struck down Ohio’s congressional map for violating the constitutional rights of Democratic voters. The court ordered legislators to devise a new map by June 14 for the 2020 elections that would be much fairer than the existing gerrymander. If lawmakers don’t pass a new map, or if the Republicans who have total control over state government simply pass a new replacement gerrymander, the court itself could draw its own districts.

Ohio has one of the most extreme GOP gerrymanders of any state in the country, ensuring Republicans won 12 of 16 seats in this swing state this entire decade, even when Obama won the state in 2012. By contrast, the hypothetical nonpartisan map shown at the top of this post (see here for a larger version) likely would have seen Democrats win 3-4 more seats in the 2018 elections, for a far more equitable distribution in this light-red swing state.

This ruling may also have major consequences for redistricting after the 2020 census, when Ohio was already scheduled to have to draw a new map beginning with the 2022 elections. Although Ohio legislators passed a “compromise” constitutional amendment in 2018 to reform congressional redistricting in an ostensibly bipartisan manner, that reform was actually a cunning Republican scheme to thwart a 2018 ballot initiative effort at the time that was aiming to create a more independent and fairer process.

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