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Group seeks decision from federal court to keep Ohio House, Senate races on May primary ballot

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Dan Konik
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The filing comes a day after the Secretary of State said legislative races would be removed from the primary ballot unless there was quick action by the federal court.

A final decision could be coming on whether a federal court will intervene to keep the Ohio primary on May 3.

A group wants the latest House and Senate maps that were ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court to be used this election year anyway, and a new filing in their lawsuit seeks to force an end to the legislative redistricting saga.

The group, which includes lobbyist and Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis and former state representative Margaret Conditt, is asking a panel of three federal judges to put into place the third set of invalidated state House and Senate maps approved by Republicans on the redistricting commission earlier this month.

The group said in its filing if the federal court implements those maps for the next five days, the full May primary can go on as scheduled. But without that action, the group says “the shark has been jumped”.

The group had asked for the second set of maps to be implemented, but since that filing in February, the third set has been approved and rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. The case had been paused while the federal court waited on a decision, and once it came down, the group asked Chief Judge Algenon Marbley to refer the case to Chief US Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton to appoint a three-judge panel. He appointed Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amul Thapar and Judge Benjamin Beaton to serve alongside Marbley.

Thapar and Beaton were both appointed by President Trump; Thapar was Trump's first Court of Appeals appointment. Marbley was appointed by President Clinton.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, one of the Republicans on the redistricting commission who voted for the invalidated maps, had ordered those legislative races removed from the May ballot, but said supplemental ballots could be used if the federal court takes action. In their filing, the group says “the public interest overwhelmingly favors voting in imperfect districts instead of no districts at all”.

While some Democrats have proposed moving the primary, no Republicans have endorsed the idea.

On Thursday, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a motion from the Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) to move the primary from May 3 to June 28.

On Tuesday House Democrats tried to move an amendment to change the primary date, but it was rejected. Senate Democrats Cecil Thomas (D-Avondale) and Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) have proposed a bill to move the primary to June 28.

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