by J.D. Davidson
Calling a federal court’s order to implement state legislative district maps that were twice ruled unconstitutional a temporary solution, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose directed county boards of election to move forward with preparations for an Aug. 2 primary election.
At midnight Saturday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, by a vote of 2-1, ordered the state to hold its second primary Aug. 2 and implemented Ohio state legislative district maps that were previously ruled unconstitutional twice by the Ohio Supreme Court.
LaRose, in a news release, said the court recognized Ohio voters have a constitutional right to vote in a primary election this year for state lawmakers; he called it a temporary solution to allow the state to move forward with a second primary.
The news release also said the ruling does not remove the burden on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to adopt a more permanent, constitutional solution for the 2024 election cycle.
“The court’s order eliminates any lingering uncertainty and sets the remainder of the 2022 election year in motion,” LaRose said. “My office and our partners at the 88 county boards of elections are already working this weekend to implement these directives. Despite the unprecedented delays and challenges we’ve faced this year, we remain committed to giving Ohioans the accessible election they expect and the confidence in the integrity of that election which they deserve.”
Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, and House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, the two Democratic members of the seven-member commission, sent a letter to other commission members asking for a meeting before Friday, the Supreme Court-imposed deadline to submit a new set of maps.
“This is a sad day for democracy. The federal court’s ruling rewarded lawlessness, partisanship, and unchecked power that Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected twice at the ballot box,” House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington and a commission member, said in a statement. “There is no justice in denying voters the opportunity for fair and free elections that use constitutional maps. Corruption and extremism will continue in Ohio until politicians in power put the voices of voters ahead of politics.”
The maps to be used in the Aug. 2 primary have been ruled unconstitutional twice by the Supreme Court, most recently May 25 when it called the commission’s actions a “stunning rebuke of the rule of law.”
Republicans had resubmitted the third set of maps – tossed out once before by the court – because they said they did not have time to draw new maps.
The Supreme Court has said each of the four sets of maps presented by the commission were unfairly gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Frank LaRose” by Frank LaRose. Background Photo “People Voting” by Ben Schumin. CC BY-SA 3.0.