In the case of League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Comm., 2022-Ohio-65, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the redistricting plan adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission (“Commission”) in September 2021 is invalid because the plan fails to meet the standards set forth in Article XI, Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution, which require that the General Assembly adopt a plan that does not favor a political party and closely corresponds to the statewide preferences of Ohio voters.
Here, the opponents of the plan argued that the plan was drawn primarily to favor the Republican Party in violation of Section 6(A) of the Ohio Constitution and did not closely correspond to the statewide preferences of Ohio voters in violation of Section 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution. In response, the Commission argued that the Section 6 standards were not mandatory but were merely “aspirational,” and as a result, the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear challenges to redistricting plans based solely on an alleged violation of Section 6. The Court disagreed with the Commission.
In finding the redistricting plan to be unconstitutional, the Court explained that the Commission did not even attempt to comply with the standards set forth in Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution and, in fact, asserted that the Senate President and the House Speaker told the primary drafters of the plan to disregard Section 6 and excluded other Commission members from participating in drafting the plan. As a result, the plan favored Republican candidates and did not closely correspond to the statewide preferences of Ohio voters.
In finding that the standards of Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution were not simply “aspirational,” the Court analyzed the first sentence of Section 6, which states that the Commission “shall attempt” to comply with the standards set forth in Section 6, as well as the last sentence, which states, “Nothing in this section permits the commission to violate the district standards described in Section 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7 of this article.” The Court explained that when both sentences are read together, the first and last sentences of Section 6 clarify that, while the standards of Section 6 are subordinate to the standards set forth in the other applicable sections, the Commission must adopt a plan complies with the standards of Section 6 and the other applicable sections if possible.
In finding that the Court had jurisdiction to hear challenges based solely on an alleged violation of Section 6, the Court explained that Article XI, Section 9(A) expressly grants the Court original, exclusive jurisdiction to hear all cases arising under Article XI.
To read this case, click here.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.