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Federal judges will review a challenge to Ohio's redistricting process

Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Chris Glassburn, mapmaker for Democratic proposal, answering questions from Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) on the issue of compactness in certain districts. This was before the commission adopted the second attempt at state legislative district maps on January 22, 2022.

A federal court challenge filed by a group of Republican voters is moving forward after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a third attempt at state legislative district maps.

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley has lifted his stay on the lawsuit against the state of Ohio in order to "determine the path forward."

Marbley issued a stay on the lawsuit on Monday in anticipation for a pending decision by the Ohio Supreme Court on state legislative district maps.

Now that the state supreme court has rejected those maps, Marbley says the question before the federal court is about the "willingness and ability of state branches timely to perform their redistricting duty."

A three-judge panel will now review the case. That panel will include; Judge Amul R. Thapar, circuit judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Benjamin J. Beaton, district judge of the Western District of Kentucky, and Judge Marbley, district judge for the Southern District of Ohio.

Thapar and Beaton were appointed by former President Donald Trump. Marbley was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.

The state is facing an escalating dilemma with a primary still scheduled for May 3. The Ohio Redistricting Commission has not been able to adopt maps that are deemed constitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The commission's third attempt at House and Senate district maps was approved by a 4-3 vote on February 24. Casting a vote for those maps were Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio), Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), and House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima).

The supreme court ruled those maps did not follow Ohio's anti-gerrymandering requirements, which were amended into the constitution by a statewide vote in 2015.

The plaintiffs want the federal court to order the state to carry out the May 3 primary using those maps adopted by the commission on February 24.

LaRose sent a letter to lawmakers saying it would not be possible for the May 3 primary to include state House and state Senate races on the ballot, barring further action from the federal court.

Republican legislative leaders say they are reviewing possible options which could include postponing the primary or holding a separate primary for state legislative races.

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