Top Senate Republican wants to appeal Congressional map to U.S. Supreme Court

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman wants to take the state’s congressional map to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Ohio Supreme Court overstepped by meddling in the mapping.

“The drawing of the districts is meant to be, under the original premise of the (U.S.) Constitution, up to the state legislature,” Huffman told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, adding that Ohio faces challenges. “similar issues” to a case from North Carolina that the US Supreme Court recently chose to consider.

The Ohio Supreme Court struck down Congress’ map of the state’s 15 districts as unconstitutional in July, for the second time. In each 4-3 decision, the judges set out a timeline – based on the Ohio Constitution – for drawing a new map and an explanation of why the map used in the May primary was rejected: it has unduly favored Republican candidates.

But Huffman said the Ohio Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to tell the Ohio Legislature what to do.

“Can they order the Legislative Assembly to respect and pass bills with certain requirements and all that? Can they order the Redistricting Commission to meet and make a decision, pass legislation in force based on what they say should be in there?” Huffman said. “Obviously the answer to that question is no.”

Huffman’s argument reflects a concept called the “independent state legislature theory,” which argues that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures ultimate authority over when, where, and how federal officials are elected. , such as US representatives. Opponents say lawmakers don’t have carte blanche on redistricting.

Federal judges have traditionally stayed out of redistricting cases, but four conservative Supreme Court justices have expressed an interest in determining who has the power to draw maps of Congress.

“The question that the Supreme Court of the United States will decide is: Does the Supreme Court of the State, in this case the Supreme Court of Ohio, have the power to say how this is going to be drawn ?” Huffman said.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved an anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative in 2018, which included language allowing the Ohio Supreme Court to review the final map.

“When voter advocates negotiated with the Ohio General Assembly for redistricting reform in Congress, the Ohio General Assembly and voters gave the Ohio Supreme Court the power to review cards to comply with the Ohio Constitution,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “What I’m hearing from Senate Speaker Matt Huffman is that the Ohio’s Constitution is not a sacred document.”

Huffman said the provision was included to streamline where legal challenges are filed rather than giving the court the power to direct mapping.

Senior Senate Democrat Kenny Yuko of Richmond Heights said in a statement that the Ohio Supreme Court was simply doing its job.

“Republicans just don’t like what he has to say and are looking for another way to hold on to power,” Yuko said. “It’s time for us to do our job, follow the law, and pass fair and constitutional congressional maps, as voters demanded.

Any appeal to the United States Supreme Court must be filed within 90 days of the Ohio Supreme Court’s rejection of the state’s Congressional card. It’s unclear who can file the appeal, whether it’s Huffman, the Ohio Redistricting Commission or an Ohio resident.

Huffman said lawmakers can’t begin work on a new map until that window expires, delaying the 30-day deadline the Ohio legislature has to come up with a new plan in mid-November. . House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, sent a memo to House Republicans on Wednesday outlining that timeline.

Cupp, through a spokesperson, did not say if he supported the appeal, adding that it was “a very real option.”

USA TODAY contributed to this report.

Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliate news agencies across Ohio.

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