The U.S. Supreme Court recently sent a redistricting case back to the Supreme Court of Ohio for reconsideration. This decision came on June 30, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court concluded its recent session and went on recess for the summer. The case revolves around the theory that state legislatures have exclusive authority to establish rules for federal elections in their respective states without interference from the courts.
Currently, Republicans dominate Ohio’s congressional delegation, holding 10 out of the state’s U.S. House seats, while Democrats have five. Additionally, one U.S. Senator is a Republican and the other is a Democrat. Republicans also have control over both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly.
Republicans in Ohio have supported the notion of the independent state legislature doctrine, arguing that it is the U.S. Constitution that authorizes state legislatures alone to establish rules for conducting federal elections. On the other hand, Democrats believe this theory is a fringe conservative legal concept that could undermine voting rights, enable extreme partisan gerrymandering during the redistricting process, and create chaos in election administration.
However, the Supreme Court rejected this doctrine in a case from North Carolina called Moore v. Harper on June 27. The Court found that the Constitution’s Elections Clause does not exclusively grant state legislatures the authority to set rules for federal elections. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion that state courts still have the power to apply state constitutional constraints when legislatures act under the authority conferred upon them by the Elections Clause.
The case in Ohio involves Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican, challenging a ruling by the Supreme Court of Ohio that deemed the state’s congressional map gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Republican state lawmakers criticized the state court’s decision, claiming it interfered with their legislative authority in multiple ways. They also stated concerns about the court assuming a role that the federal Constitution does not permit.
In his petition, Huffman argued that the Ohio court disregarded the deference that should have been given to the legislature in drawing congressional district maps. He asserted that the court invented new state constitutional law and demanded the placement of six Democratic candidates in the House of Representatives, which he believed exceeded the limits of the Elections Clause.
Respondent Meryl Neiman, an attorney and Democratic Party organizer, opposed the petition, stating that the Elections Clause should not enable a state legislature to bypass its own state constitution, particularly provisions that it established and endorsed to reflect the will of the voters. Neiman argued that state courts should be allowed to invalidate an unconstitutional map and send it back to the state legislature for redrawing, as long as it aligns with specific constitutional anti-gerrymandering provisions.
On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition without holding an oral argument, issuing an unsigned order without further explanation or dissent from any justices. The court vacated the judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio and remanded the case back to that court in light of its decision in Moore v. Harper. This process is referred to as GVR, which stands for grant, vacate, and remand.
The parties involved in the case are currently reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision and considering their next steps. Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman stated that the appeal recognized serious constitutional concerns and they are determining the path forward. Freda Levenson, the legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, expressed that if the Supreme Court of Ohio appropriately applies the Moore v. Harper decision, it would affirm their prior ruling that rejected the congressional map.
The Epoch Times reached out for comment to the attorneys representing both parties in the case. The outcome of this redistricting case could have significant implications for Ohio’s congressional representation and the interpretation of election rules by state legislatures and courts.