COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court rejected House and Senate district maps for a third time Wednesday night, likely impacting the May 3 primary.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled the maps unfairly favored Republicans and violated the Ohio Constitution. The Ohio Redistricting Commission must approve a new set of maps by March 28.
Ohio election officials have expressed concerns about their ability to carry out a successful primary due to the state's legislative maps, but Secretary of State Frank LaRose told them to use the most recent plan for primary ballots because lawmakers "made it abundantly clear" they did not want to delay the primary.
March 18 is the deadline to start sending out ballots to military members and their families. In order to send ballots, a finalized ballot with districts is needed.
“It’s absolutely crucial to be able to place voters in the correct districts and to place the candidates in the correct districts so voters are able to vote for those who will possibly represent them. And it’s a very tedious process,” said Sherry Poland, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections Office and first vice chair of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.
OAEO sent a letter to Senate President Matt Huffman Feb. 28 saying a rushed primary could lead to election mistakes, but Huffman said he did not believe there were "sufficient votes to move the election.” Instead, the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 9, which provides emergency funding to Ohio’s 88 county board of elections.
In their opinion, the majority of justices noted Huffman "misunderstands" the requirements for legislative maps, noting he voted against a plan from Senator Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Allison Russo because "he said it would have made it hard, if not impossible, for some Republican incumbents to retain their seats."
"Currently, the General Assembly is marked by extreme disproportionality, with the Republican Party holding substantial majorities in both the Senate and the House," the majority wrote. "The district plan that facilitated that disproportionality was the basis for the adoption of Article XI."
The justices said the commission should bring on an "independent map drawer" for the fourth round of maps.
Ohio candidates had to file for election this Month, but their districts are still unknown
Ohio Secretary of State tells election officials to use latest congressional maps for May 3 primary