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Government/Politics

Youngstown voters plan to refile Voting Rights Act complaint in federal court

Printout of congressional district map proposed by GOP on table
Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Commissioners hand out different maps to be submitted during a Ohio Redistricting Commission meeting on March 2, 2022.

The motion to stop the certification of Ohio's congressional primary results is expected to be refiled in another federal court. The motion would argue that the state's congressional district map violates the Voting Rights Act because the mapmakers did not take into account racial demographics.

After being rejected by one federal court, Percy Squire, attorney for a group of Youngstown voters, said he will take the argument over Ohio's congressional map to the U.S. District Court's Northern District of Ohio.

Squire argued before a three-judge panel on Monday that the U.S. District Court's Southern District of Ohio should not allow the certification of the congressional primary races. Squire said the 15-district congressional map – approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission on March 2 – did not take racial demographics into consideration.

Since early voting has already started for the May 3 primary, Squire asked for certification to be blocked, "to make sure that the state is put on notice by a federal court that the Voting Rights Act requires under these circumstances for them to be cognizant of racial demographics."

Squire made that argument as an intervenor in a case filed by Republican voters. The original case is asking the federal court to implement state legislative district maps – that have already been found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court – because state officials are unable to adopt maps on their own.

Squire is representing Rev. Kenneth Simon, Rev. Lewis Macklin and Helen Youngblood – all from the Youngstown area – known in the case as the "Simon parties."

The three-judge panel ruled that Squire's argument exceeded the scope of the original case but acknowledged the motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) would be better placed in the northern district court.

"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 TRO as they see fit and panel appointment as the law requires," U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley wrote.

Just hours after that ruling was announced, Squire made it known he intended to file the case again in the northern district's federal court. Squire said the case could be refiled as soon as Thursday.

The southern district court is still considering the case against Ohio's redistricting process for new Ohio House and Ohio Senate district maps. The Ohio Supreme Court is currently deliberating on objections made against a fourth attempt at new maps. Those maps were passed by four of the five Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission on March 28.

The three-judge panel said it would intervene if a decision on new maps is not reached by April 20.

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