WASHINGTON — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling announced Thursday means state voting districts will not be changed or redrawn until at least 2022, when a new law governing how Ohio congressional districts is expected to take effect.
The judges ruled that it is not up to courts to fix gerrymandering issues. It is up to voters, legislatures and citizen action groups to settle gerrymandering disagreements.
Earlier this year, a federal court struck down Ohio’s congressional map after an American Civil Liberties Union challenge. That court ordered a new map be drawn before the 2020 election. In the ruling, judges determined that Republicans, who controlled the redistricting process in 2011, unconstitutionally created districts that essentially guaranteed continued Republican dominance for the 10 years the political maps would be used.
State and congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years following the once-a-decade census in order to account for population shifts.
But in May, the ruling ordering the districts to be redrawn was put on hold after the Supreme Court decided to hear to cases similar to the Ohio case. Justices agree to consider the cases of Rucho v. Common Cause and Benisek v. Lamone. partisan gerrymandering cases in Maryland and North Carolina. Until it considered those cases, it order the Ohio ruling to be put on hold.
The court’s Thursday decision makes previous rulings obsolete. In a 5-4 decision, justices determined that partisan gerrymandering cases are a political question, meaning the doors of the court have been closed to litigants.
The ruling also means new maps will not be drawn until at least 2022.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) disagreed with ruling.
“The Supreme Court failed Ohioans today,” Brown wrote in a news release. “Voters should be picking their representatives, not politicians picking their voters. This Supreme Court has repeatedly put its thumb on the scale of justice for corporations over workers, Wall Street over consumers, drug companies over patients and today politics over voters.”
That court ruling also means the case brought by the ACLU, ACLU of Ohio, and law firm Covington and Burling, — along with all other partisan gerrymandering cases — cannot be heard by courts and it will be up to the voters to make sure their representatives are accountable through legislative initiatives and citizen action.
“The court’s decision to allow the practice of gerrymandering to continue, to flourish, and to evade review by the judicial system, leaves it in the hands of those who will continue to abuse their awesome power whenever they can to defeat the will of the voters,” said Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio. “In Ohio, this means that in the 2020 election, the map — rather than the electorate — will once again determine who occupies each of our congressional seats.”