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Federal judges consider options for May primary without valid Ohio House, Senate maps

A sign directs at Franklin County's early voting center
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
A sign directs voters at Franklin County's early voting center in 2020. A federal court is considering ending early voting for the May primary election early, among other options, in response to a lawsuit from a group of Republican activists who want invalidated legislative maps adopted.

Three federal judges heard arguments Friday on a request from a group of Republican activists to allow the state to use House and Senate district maps that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional, so candidates for those districts can be on the May primary.

There’s been no ruling yet, but there were several ideas presented.

The three judges, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amul Thapar and US District Judge Benjamin Beaton, both appointed by President Trump, and Chief Judge Algenon Marbley, appointed by President Clinton, heard from attorneys for the state, for voting advocates opposed to the maps, and for the group of Republicans who want that third set of legislative maps to be used for the May primary even though they were rejected as unconstitutional.

That group asked the panel to put into place the third set of invalidated state House and Senate maps approved by Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission earlier this month, so a full primary can go forward in May. Sec. of State Frank LaRose, one of the Republicans on the redistricting commission who voted for the invalidated maps, had ordered those legislative races removed from the May ballot but said supplemental ballots could be used if the federal court takes quick action.

The judges rejected the request to order the county boards of elections to immediately put those legislative candidates back on the May ballot.

Among the options floated by the attorneys that could be considered: waiting till Monday when the state’s new outside mapmakers are supposed to have new legislative maps; having the federal court move the primary or cut short early voting, which starts April 5; or appointing a special master to draw new maps.

So far, there's no decision, and the judges have given LaRose until Monday to respond to questions about the possible effect of shortening the early voting period. Military and overseas ballots are set to go out when that starts April 5. Republican state lawmakers changed that date from March 18, and the federal government signed off on it last week.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.