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Government/Politics

With deadline looming, lawsuit filed to move Ohio redistricting case to federal court

Cupp and Sykes gaggle.JPEG
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), the co-chairs of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, speak to reporters after the commission's meeting on January 18, 2022.

A group of voters supportive of Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission asks to move to federal court from the Ohio Supreme Court, which had ordered new House and Senate maps to be delivered Friday morning.

Hours after the Ohio Redistricting Commission disregarded a state supreme court order by failing to adopt new Ohio House and Senate maps, a lawsuit was filed to move the issue to a panel of three federal judges.

A group of voters sympathetic to Republicans on the commission filed the suit.

It includes Ohio Right to Life president and delegate for former president Trump Mike Gonidakis and Republican former state representative Margaret Conditt, says the "impasse" and the lack of a constitutional fix to the stalemate results in U.S. Constitutional violations for voters and candidates.

"There is a right to vote for representatives. You don't have an ability to exercise that right without district lines," says Donald Brey, attorney representing the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit. "In other words, how do you vote for a representative from a district if there isn't a district?"

The suit asks for the move under a federal law that sends challenges over redistricting to a panel of three judges. And it requests the maps that were approved on January 22 and rejected as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court on February 7 to be used for this year's elections.

The lawsuit says: "The ongoing uncertainty for the 2022 election cycle prevents voters, including Plaintiffs, from knowing their voting district, engaging with candidates, holding representatives accountable, and associating and organizing with their favored candidates.....Because the Plaintiffs are being denied the right to vote in violation of the U.S. Constitution, they are suffering an irreparable injury."

The Ohio Redistricting Commission’s Democratic co-chair, Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), said in an interview for this week's "The State of Ohio" that the lawsuit doesn’t surprise him.

“We have known all along that we’ve got multiple branches of government and levels of government, and people can possibly seek remedies at any one of those levels," Sykes said.

Sykes said the commission could be held in contempt in court, though he says he and House Minority Leader Allison Russo have documented their efforts to pass maps. The Democrats proposed maps at the meeting on Thursday, but Republicans refused to pass them and ended the meeting without putting forward their own maps.

Sykes said the constitution is clear on what’s required for legal maps but that Republicans have continued pushing for more districts.

“As long as the majority is not going to comply with the constitution, yes, we will continue to seek remedy in the court," Sykes said.