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Federal judges push redistricting intervention to May 28

Written on Apr 22, 2022

Provided by Hannah News Service 

Saying "state officials, not federal courts, draw state electoral districts" and that the U.S. Supreme Court has given a clear answer that federal courts must impose new maps only as a last resort, a three-judge federal panel pushed its date of last resort back to Saturday, May 28. 

If the state does not come up with a new plan by then, the judges said, they will order the use of the third plan adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission for the upcoming election. 

In a per curiam opinion, U.S. District Chief Judge Algenon Marbley, U.S. Circuit Judge Amul Thapar and U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton agreed late Wednesday the case has standing and that they must act in a federal lawsuit brought by Republican activists if the state does not resolve its redistricting issue. Marbley, however, dissented on the remedy that the court should order. 

The federal lawsuit was filed earlier this year, with the plaintiffs claiming that the continuing state court challenges surrounding the General Assembly redistricting maps will leave them in either malapportioned districts or without a candidate to vote for. They asked for the court to order the state to use one of the maps passed by the Ohio Redistricting Commission but struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court. 

During arguments held last month, the federal judges said they wanted to "wait as long as possible for Ohio to solve their own mess." 

Since that hearing, the Ohio Supreme Court has struck down the fourth plan passed by the commission, and the commission has not reconvened to start work on a new plan despite the Court's setting a Friday, May 6 deadline for a new plan. 

Thapar and Beaton, both appointees of former President Donald Trump, said in the opinion that among the options presented to them, the third plan passed by the commission in February has an advantage over the others. They noted that Secretary of State Frank LaRose had ordered counties to begin implementing that map after it was passed but before it was struck down by the Court in order to be ready for the May 3 primary. LaRose pulled the races from the May 3 primary ballot after the court struck that plan down. 

The judges said that because the counties maintain a backup of that plan in their voter registration system, it gives them a drop-dead deadline of May 28.