Federal Court Won’t Yet Get Involved in Ohio’s Election Maps Drama

By Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Ohio.
March 31, 2022 Updated: April 1, 2022

The U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio currently will not intervene in the matter of the state’s redistricting commission’s ongoing dispute with the Ohio Supreme Court over proposed maps, according to information from the federal court.

Following a hearing on March 30, Judge Algenon Marbley’s said his court will take under advisement a request for an injunction against the redistricting maps leading up to the May 3 Primary Election in Ohio.

However, Marbley will not do anything at this time to intervene in the Ohio Supreme Court’s proceedings as it reviews the latest set of proposed maps.

Earlier in the week of March 28, the state’s high court said it would review the fourth set of maps although they are similar to the ones previously submitted.

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected three proposed congressional maps since September, voting 4-3 to dismiss them.

Judge Maureen O’Connor (R) and the three Democrat judges—Michael Donnelly, Melody Stewart, and Jennifer Brunner—have rejected the maps, citing they highly favor the Republicans and violate the state’s gerrymandering laws implemented in 2015.

O’Connor, the lone Republican judge who opposes the proposed maps, wrote an order giving both sides two months to present their arguments.

Any court ruling on whether to approve or reject the latest set of maps would come after that.

Although the May 3 Primary Election will move forward, the ballot will not include the Ohio General Assembly races, or offices that have a district.

Numerous candidates for Ohio House and State Senate races said the process has been frustrating and confusing as they are unsure where to campaign and how to budget for it.

It has caused newcomers to conduct more grassroots-style campaigns, going door-to-door and holding community events to personally meet with constituents, said Katherine Shutte of Beavercreek near Dayton, who is running for a state representative seat in District 70.

In a legal maneuver, the Ohio Organ­iz­ing Collab­or­at­ive—consisting of Ohio Right to Life and other Republican activist groups—filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio in Columbus in late February.

It is against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the redistricting commission that includes member Gov. Mike DeWine.

The groups are seeking to compel the court to accept one of the existing maps.

This was a move that Ohio candidates also opposed because they believed it was the state’s job to oversee its elections without federal interference.

Brian Suth­er­land, an attorney fighting the lawsuit and who opposes the federal court getting involved, issued a statement, “The Ohio Supreme Court must be given time to fulfill its respons­ib­il­it­ies in Ohio Organ­iz­ing Collab­or­at­ive v. the Ohio Redis­trict­ing Commis­sion. The court hasn’t finished its work, nor has the commis­sion.”

Yurij Rudensky, senior coun­sel in the Demo­cracy Program at the Bren­nan Center for Justice, said, “Our clients are seek­ing to inter­vene in this federal lawsuit so that those refus­ing to follow the state consti­tu­tion don’t get an easy way out.

“The commis­sion’s most recent maps are not consti­tu­tional. They are not just. They would distrib­ute polit­ical power in Ohio unfairly, with rami­fic­a­tions for Ohioans’ lives for years to come.”

LaRose’s office announced on March 29 it would begin early in-person voting in Ohio on April 5 despite the ongoing map disputes.

A spokesman from LaRose’s office told The Epoch Times on March 31 that their office is following the law by moving forward with the May 3 primary.

“We’re proceeding with the congressional and state races, and it’s up to only the Ohio General Assembly as to when they want to have its election,” said Ron Nichols, a spokesman for LaRose.

“Until they tell us different, we are moving forward with the May 3 primary,” Nichols added. “We’re doing our job, and doing what the law requires.”

Michael Sakal is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Ohio.