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Ohio redistricting panel resubmits maps already rejected by high court  

The filing all but ensures that a federal court will step in and allow the Republican-backed maps to be used in the August primary for legislative races.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) — The Republican-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission on Friday resubmitted legislative maps to the Ohio Supreme Court that the justices have already rejected as unconstitutional, clearing the way for a federal court to put the maps in place for the 2022 statehouse primaries.

The primary elections for state House and Senate seats are set for Aug. 2, while all other primaries in Ohio were held on May 3. The legislative races had to be postponed because none of the maps submitted so far have met state constitutional muster.

The resubmitted maps were approved by the commission 4-3 mostly along party lines, with the exception of Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, a Republican who voted against them based on concerns over splits in political subdivisions and compactness.

The Republican majority voting in favor of the maps consisted of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, state Senator Rob McColley, sitting in for Senate President Matt Huffman, and state Representative Jeff LeRe, sitting in for House Speaker Bob Cupp.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo and Senator Minority Leader Vernon Sykes, both Democrats, joined Faber in voting against the maps.

The Ohio Supreme Court rejected the commission's third set of maps on March 16 due to partisan gerrymandering by the Republican majority. A fourth set of maps, which were only slightly changed, were also found to be unconstitutional. The majority pointed to obvious partisan leanings in the maps that mischaracterized competitive districts as Democratic-leaning.

A Republican group, meanwhile, had filed a separate case in federal court seeking an order for the state to use the third set of maps rejected by the state justices. On April 21, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio said that unless new maps are in place by May 28, they would implement the third set.

In resubmitting their third iteration of maps to the state high court, Republicans on the redistricting committee are attempting to ensure they are used this year.

LaRose said he voted for the maps for logistical reasons, explaining they are already programmed into the elections systems at the county level, making the third version "the only viable option to effectively administer a primary election on Aug. 2."

These maps would only be in use for the 2022 elections, although the state constitutional amendment concerning redistricting only specifies partisan four-year maps or bipartisan 10-year maps. A two-year map is not part of the amendment, which could create more constitutional issues.

Democrats on the committee attempted to introduce changes to the maps drawn by independent mapmakers prior to the submission of the fourth set of maps, but the Republican members rejected the changes.

Russo, the House minority leader, said in a statement that the resubmission of the third maps is "a bad-faith effort to punt responsibility to another entity" – the federal court.

LeRe, the Republican state lawmaker, said the commission's work will continue, explaining that it still needs to come up with maps for the next election.

There is no set date for the Ohio Supreme Court to rule on the resubmitted maps, but a majority of justices are expected to again reject them.

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