Judge pauses federal lawsuit challenging Ohio’s redistricting process, for the moment

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — The lawsuit asking the federal court to step in and implement state legislative district maps is on hold until the Ohio Supreme Court takes further action.

The many parties associated with Ohio’s redistricting process appeared in court Monday for a hearing over whether federal judges need to intervene in the mapmaking dilemma.

Outside the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley in Columbus.
Outside the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley in Columbus. [Andy Chow | Statehouse News Bureau]
Plaintiffs, made up of Republican voters, are asking for the federal court to take action on Ohio’s redistricting process and choose a map that can be used for the May 3 primary.

However, a third attempt at a state legislative district plan for new Ohio House and Ohio Senate maps is currently under review at the supreme court.

Donald Brey, attorney for the plaintiffs, says they will wait to see what happens next.

“If they adopt the third plan, then we have nothing to complain about,” says Brey. “And if they don’t, then we do still have something to complain about but it’s no longer hypothetical.”

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley ordered a “brief stay” of the lawsuit in anticipation of the supreme court’s decision.

Marbley is also asking Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio) to provide input. The judge wants LaRose to name a date when a decision on maps must be reached in order for Ohio to still hold a primary on May 3.

Marbley says it’s possible the stay could be lifted if the supreme court does not come to a decision by the date LaRose provides.

LaRose has said, in previous comments, the state is already past that point and if the supreme court finds the latest state legislative district proposal unconstitutional then lawmakers should consider moving the primary date.

The plaintiffs argued that precedent for the federal court to intervene is found in a 1993 case, Growe v. Emison.

There were other attorneys intervening in the case on behalf of the petitioners who are fighting against the Republican-drawn district maps in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Those attorneys argued that the precedent set in Growe v. Emison must prove there is evidence that state officials are “unable or unwilling” to adopt a plan.

In his decision, Marbley said that there has been a “flurry of developments” in the state’s redistricting process over the last few weeks. He says that is further proof why the federal court should continue to defer the matter to the state supreme court.

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