Case Summary

After the Ohio governor signed into law a congressional redistricting statute in 1915, a group of Ohio citizens successfully invoked the Ohio Constitution's citizen referendum process through which the state's voters subsequently rejected the law. Several of Ohio's elected officials then filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court to prevent the referendum's result from taking effect, alleging that the state's congressional redistricting statute fell outside the scope of the citizens' referendum power because Art. I, Sec. 4 of the U.S. Constitution explicitly gives the "legislature" authority over the time, places and manner of holding congressional elections.

In 1916, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the referendum process provided by the Ohio Constitution could properly be invoked and applied to congressional redistricting statutes under federal law and both the Ohio and Federal Constitutions. The Court began by finding that Ohio's referendum process fell within the overall scope of the state's "legislative" power because it constituted a part of the state's constitution and laws. The Court next turned to the legislative history of federal redistricting statutes, stating that Congress evidenced its intention to permit the use of state referendum processes in connection with redistricting laws when it amended a provision to say that redistricting was to be done not by the state's "legislature", but rather by a state "in the manner provided by the laws thereof." Finally, the Court explained that, in light of these two findings, the state's argument that the referendum violated Art. I, Sec. 4 could only be based upon a claim that applying the referendum power to congressional apportionment statutes is "obnoxious" to the republican form of government guaranteed by Art. IV, Sec. 4 - a constitutional claim that has been consistently held to be beyond the court's judicial authority.

Significance: Legislative powers reserved to citizens by the various states' constitutions and laws, such as a referendum vote, can be invoked in the context of redistricting statutes enacted by the state's legislature and this does not violate the requirement of Art. I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution that the "legislatures" determine the time places, and manner of elections.

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U.S. Supreme Court - 241 U.S. 565 (1916)