Ohio Gerrymandering ruling could tip the scales


Forcing the Supremes to do the right thing:

A federal court on Friday tossed out Ohio’s congressional map, ruling that Republican state lawmakers had carved up the state to give themselves an illegal partisan advantage and to dilute Democrats’ votes in a way that predetermined the outcome of elections.

The ruling follows decisions by four other federal courts striking down partisan gerrymanders in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Maryland and, last week, in Michigan. All but Maryland were gerrymandered by Republicans. The Supreme Court, which last year sidestepped the issue of whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution, is expected to rule this spring in appeals from Maryland and North Carolina.

The 3-judge panel has directed the Ohio Legislature to have new maps ready by June, so no doubt the Supreme Court will be asked to issue a stay sometime very soon. And that unfinished business with a clock ticking will be on their minds while looking at Maryland and North Carolina. Tell me if this doesn't sound eerily familiar:

Ohio’s maps, in effect since 2012, have solidified a congressional delegation that has remained unchanged in four elections, yielding 12 Republicans and four Democrats — or 75 percent for one party in a swing state that has trended Republican in recent years, but where presidential and statewide elections are often close.

In their sharply worded, unanimous opinion, the judges wrote that Republicans in Ohio, supervised by party mapmaking experts in Washington, operated with “invidious partisan intent” to pack Democrats into as few districts as possible, and to carve up Democratic-leaning cities and counties to favor Republicans.

Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati, for example, were split in a “strange, squiggly, curving shape” to divide Democrats, the judges wrote. Meanwhile in Franklin County, which includes Columbus, Democrats were concentrated in a “sinkhole” that allowed mapmakers to “secure healthy Republican majorities” in two suburban districts.

“In this case,” the judges wrote, “the bottom line is that the dominant party in state government manipulated district lines in an attempt to control electoral outcomes and thus direct the political ideology of the state’s congressional delegation.’’

It boggles the mind that this has been allowed to go on for so long, but here we are.