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Ohio groups oppose possibility of U.S. Supreme Court taking up state redistricting

U.S Supreme Court
Posted at 10:00 AM, Dec 24, 2022

The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on under a content-sharing agreement.

The U.S. Supreme Court still hasn’t decided whether they’ll take up Ohio’s redistricting case, but voting rights advocates and a national anti-gerrymandering group have submitted statements against the lawsuit.

In the case, GOP leaders in the state have asked the nation’s highest court to rule on whether or not the Ohio Supreme Court had the authority to reject district maps as a unconstitutional with regard to partisan favoritism.

The legislative leaders say the federal Elections Clause, which gives the authority regarding the “times, places and manner” of elections to the state legislature, should override the judicial powers of the state supreme court.

But attorneys representing Meryl Neiman, who filed the state lawsuit against the congressional maps which led to their rejection by the state supreme court, and the National Redistricting Action Fund say the Elections Clause does not give state legislatures “the untrammeled power to violate their state constitutions.”

“Not to mention that (the GOP leaders’) preferred outcome would have pernicious consequences far beyond Ohio and the redistricting context,” the group wrote in a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case sits in the shadow of another redistricting-related case, Moore v. Harper, which the Supreme Court has agreed to consider. That case will decide what powers the state legislature has when it comes to elections, including the validity of a century-old legal theory called the Independent State Legislature Doctrine.

With that case in mind, the NRAF said the Ohio case doesn’t need to be considered, and does not ask the right legal questions.

“This is not the case to test a new legal theory premised on the idea that state legislatures should retain control over congressional redistricting,” the NRAF wrote. “In Ohio, the state legislature already does.”

In a separate brief, the League of Women Voters of Ohio also stood in opposition to the case, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s need to hear it.

“There is no Elections Clause violation here,” the LWV states in opening its brief.

The league’s brief emphasized an argument also made by the NRAF: the 2018 constitutional amendment that reformed the redistricting process in Ohio laid out the state supreme court’s role in deciding on the constitutionality of maps.

“The Supreme Court of Ohio merely exercised the judicial function that the Ohio Legislature specifically assigned it, and directed the legislature to draw a lawful plan,” the league wrote.

Fighting against the idea that the Elections Clause gives the state legislature broad powers, the League of Women Voters of Ohio cited a century-old U.S. Supreme Court case brought from its own state, in which the court rejected the argument that the clause’s use of the term “legislature” in turn “allowed the state legislature to bypass the state constitution.”

“This court unanimously rejected that argument, with Chief Justice (Edward Douglass) White explaining that a state legislature may not enact laws under the Elections Clause that are invalid ‘under the constitution and the laws of the state.’” The league wrote.

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in Moore v. Harper, but has not made a decision in the case, nor has it given any indication whether or not it will take up the Ohio case.