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Could Ohio redistricting battle delay elections?

CLEVELAND (WJW) – After the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated another election district map as gerrymandered and unconstitutional, questions are growing about the potential for election delays.

The court ruled Friday that the U.S. Congressional district map created by the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly unfairly favors Republican candidates and must be re-drawn within 30 days.

“We commend the Ohio Supreme Court for upholding the right of all of us to have fair and meaningful representation,” said Jen Miller, League of Women Voters of Ohio Executive Director.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio was among the groups that sued over gerrymandered election districts.

“When gerrymandering happens, it hurts every voter,” Miller said.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court also invalidated maps for Ohio House and Senate districts created by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, giving the commission 10 days to re-draw them.

The court ruled that, in both cases, the maps violated a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in 2015 that aimed to reduce partisan mapmaking that unfairly benefits a particular political party.

While Ohio Democrats cheered the court’s rulings, the rulings leave the state without legislative districts in place as the May primary election approaches.

February 2, less than three weeks away, is the deadline for candidates to file and submit valid signatures from a district.

Ohio House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Jordan Hawkins said some candidates are concerned about potential legislative district border changes as the deadline changes.

“We are in such uncharted waters,” Hawkins said. “This ruling coming when it did, as close to the filing deadline, is having a very deep impact on a lot of folks’ calculations and plans.”

He said the caucus is building infrastructure and a plan to organize and file petitions by the deadline, regardless of how much time redistricting will allow.

Hawkins called the tight deadline a bipartisan issue that will impact both parties.

Some are now calling for state lawmakers to push back the filing and possibly delay the May primary to allow time to re-draw fair, legal districts.

“Both the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio Redistricting Commission waited until the last minute to start their mapmaking process, and that’s shameful,” Miller said. “But, at the end of the day, our elections matter and our representation matters, so we need to take the time to get this right.”

A spokesperson for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose did not respond to a request seeking comment about potential election delays.

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