COLUMBUS — Republican lawmakers and the state solicitor say a federal court hasn’t given much guidance on how to draw a new, constitutional congressional map.
State Solicitor Ben Flowers, the attorney general's top appellate lawyer, was asked to give the Senate Government Oversight Committee an update after a three-judge panel of U.S. District Court in Cincinnati ruled the current congressional map is unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The court wants the Republican-controlled General Assembly to submit a new map by June 14, so it can be implemented for 2020.
The state has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of that ruling.
Flowers said Thursday the state is arguing that it doesn’t make sense to set a June 14 deadline when it’s expected the court will rule later in June on gerrymandering cases out of North Carolina and Maryland that will have a direct impact on Ohio’s case.
“We’re supposed to come up with a map in a few weeks that meets the satisfaction of the three-judge panel. What guidance did they provide the General Assembly as far procedure to follow?” asked Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, the committee chairman. “I just didn’t see a whole lot. They said a lot about what they didn’t like.”
Flowers agreed. “I don’t think they really provided any procedure. The most guidance they gave come from the tests” under the Equal Protection Clause. That, he said, includes whether there was partisan intent and partisan effect in the aftermath. State and national Republican officials drew a map in 2011 that secured a 12-4 GOP advantage.
“We conclude that the 2012 map dilutes the votes of Democratic voters by packing and cracking them into districts that are so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined,” the court wrote in a blunt decision.
The law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, of Raleigh, N.C., has been paid $1.13 million to represent the House and Senate in the case at a rate of $375 per hour.
A decision on the state's request for a stay is expected within two weeks.