The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Ohio General Assembly does not have to quickly produce a new congressional map after it was declared unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
With rulings on two other gerrymandering cases expected within the next month, the justices granted the stay requested by the state, which faced a U.S. District Court order to produce a revamped map of U.S. House districts by June 14.
The stay blocking the lower court order will remain in effect until the appeal in the case is resolved or the court issues another order, according to the one-sentence filing.
The high court also issued a stay sought by Republican lawmakers in Michigan after that state's congressional districts also were declared illegal and ordered redrawn by Aug. 1.
A bipartisan three-judge panel in Cincinnati ruled May 3 that Ohio's map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered in partisan fashion to entrench Republican power and disadvantage Democrats.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, asked the justices to set aside the ruling of the judges pending the resolution of the state’s appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. His filing argued that Ohio should not be "buffaloed" into coming up with a hastily drawn map.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by June 30 on gerrymandering cases out of North Carolina and Maryland that could uphold the way Ohio’s map was drawn as legal or set out new standards that could make efforts to quickly redesign the 2012 map moot, Yost argued in his application for a stay.
In a statement after the stay was issued, Yost said, “These very questions were already pending before the Supreme Court in cases from other states. Common sense suggested waiting for those decisions, due next month — and now, the Supreme Court itself has said it is so.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and other plaintiffs asked the high court not to grant the stay, noting Ohio has elected U.S. House members from districts now declared as illegal since 2012.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the ACLU wrote: "We feel confident that our trial court’s thorough and scholarly opinion — articulating its basis for finding Ohio’s extreme & unconstitutional gerrymander — will shine light for SCOTUS as it considers the other cases. Then it will be time for the Ohio Legislature to present a remedial map to the trial court in 2020."
The federal judges ruled that Ohio Republicans drew “bizarre” district lines, in many cases to illegally pack Republicans into certain districts to benefit GOP candidates and incumbents while packing Democrats into certain urban districts to ensure Democrats had few competitive districts in which to run.
Republicans have held 12 of Ohio’s 16 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives since the new district map was instituted.
Contact Randy Ludlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or @RandyLudlow.