Ohio’s Supreme Court Looking at Contempt Charges For DeWine’s Redistricting Panel

The Ohio redistricting panel failed to deliver new district maps after the first two proposals were deemed unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

A seven member panel that includes Ohio Governor Mike DeWine submitted two maps on a 5-2 republican majority that were rejected, and now beyond a deadline, the state’s Supreme Court wants a written explanation by Wednesday why the commission shouldn’t be held in contempt.

Being held in contempt of court is a designation judges use to enforce their orders under the threat of penalty, typically fines or possible jail time. 

The commission’s failure to act has left Ohio with no valid state legislative maps, jeopardizing a May primary. The Republican Secretary of State has said that the state is on the brink of violating federal law.

The court, in both 4-3 its decisions, ruled that maps must comply with the statewide voting preferences of Ohioans over the past decade, which were 54% for Republican candidates and 46% for Democratic ones. Ohio is one of the most gerrymandered states, and Ohio voters passed laws in 2015 and 2018 to limit the extreme gerrmandering.

The Senate President (R) said it was not possible to draw new maps without violating other constitutional rules for redistricting like not dividing counties and other municipalities. Senate Republicans filed a federal lawsuit asking a three-judge panel to enact the second set of maps, which was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

To make things even more interesting, Mike DeWine’s son Pat is a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. The younger DeWine has refused to recuse himself from the redistricting case. The Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joined the court’s three Democrats in declaring the maps unconstitutional, while Pat DeWine joined two other Republicans in upholding his dad’s maps.

Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland.com, Ohio Capital Journal, Newsweek