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Motion claiming Ohio violated the Voting Rights Act is rejected by federal court

Congressional map adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission on March 2, 2022 by a 5 to 2 vote.
Ohio Redistricting Commission
Congressional map adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission on March 2, 2022 by a 5 to 2 vote.

The group wanted the federal court to intervene in Ohio's congressional races and block the certification of the May 3 primary results, but the court said the request exceeded the scope of the original case.

A three-judge panel has determined not to move further on a request to stop the certification of the May 3 congressional primaries.

The group argued the results should not be certified because racial demographics were not considered when drawing the new district map — which was adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission on March 2.

The motion was made by Percy Squire, an attorney representing Rev. Kenneth Simon, Rev. Lewis Macklin and Helen Youngblood. Squire attached the argument to a case involving Ohio's state legislative district maps, in which he was already an intervenor.

The original case — filed by Republican voters — argued that state officials were at an impasse and therefore unable to adopt new Ohio House and Ohio Senate district maps before the May 3 primary. Those plaintiffs asked for the federal court to pick maps that were already found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley said the motion by the Youngstown-area voters was outside of the scope of the original case.

"When this court (then sitting as a single district judge) permitted the Simon Parties to intervene, it made clear that their role in the case is to ensure an appropriate remedy on the underlying dispute over state legislative districts," Marbley wrote. "The court did not contemplate sweeping congressional redistricting, which is a wholly distinct process, into this lawsuit."

He also added: "The Court is receptive to the Simon Parties’ desire to be heard on the merits and to their difficulty thus far in finding a receptive ear. Nonetheless, their best course at this point is to file a new federal case in the Northern District specific to congressional redistricting and to move for a [temporary restraining order] as they see fit and panel appointment as the law requires."

On Monday, Squire argued before the court that Ohio's 15-district congressional map — which was passed by Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission then invalidated by the supreme court — violates the Voting Rights Act because there was no consideration for racial demographics.

Donald Brey, attorney for the Republican plaintiffs, said the court's decision removes what could have been a distraction from the original filing against the state legislative redistricting process.

"It's a totally different argument, it's a different structure, it's a different issue," said Brey.

Objections to the congressional map Ohio is using for the May 3 primary have already been filed in the state supreme court, however, that argument is not expected to take place until after the primary.

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