Fed­eral panel re­jects re­quest to de­lay ger­ry­man­der­ing trial

Judges cite time con­sid­er­a­tions in deny­ing Ohio.

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By Rich Exner

A three-judge CINCIN­NATI — fed­eral panel re­jected a re­quest from the state of Ohio to de­lay a ger­ry­man­der­ing law­suit that aims to put a new Ohio con­gres­sional dis­trict map in place in time for the 2020 elec­tion.

The state wanted to de­lay the trial, sched­uled to start March 4, un­til af­ter rul­ings are re­leased this sum­mer in two ger­ry­man­der­ing cases be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court — one brought by Repub­li­cans in Mary­land and one brought by Democrats in North Carolina.

But the judges in their Fri­day rul­ing cited time con­sid­er­a­tions. The state has said any changes to a map must be in place by Sept. 20, 2019, to get ready for the 2020 elec­tion.

“Given these tight time con­straints, a stay could pose a po­ten­tially se­vere hard­ship for the Plain­tiffs (and Ohio vot­ers gen­er­ally) — that is, an un­reme­died con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tion,” the rul­ing said. “More­over, the lit­i­gants and vot­ers would ben­e­fit from a timely res­o­lu­tion of this trial, no mat­ter the out­come, be­cause as the Septem­ber dead­line ap­proaches, the risk of con­fu­sion and un­cer­tainty in­creases.”

The trial could last two weeks. Ei­ther party would have the op­tion to ap­peal di­rectly to the U.S. Supreme Court, tak­ing up more time.

The law­suit was filed in May 2018 on be­half of the Ohio League of Women Vot­ers and oth­ers. The state of Ohio is ar­gu­ing to keep things as they are.

The trial could last two weeks. Ei­ther party would have the op­tion to ap­peal di­rectly to the U.S. Supreme Court, tak­ing up more time.

“The court has pow­er­fully struck down the de­fen­dants’ de­lay tac­tic . ... and rec­og­nized that if our al­le­ga­tions are proven at trial, than a new map will need to be drawn quickly,” Freda Leven­son, lead at­tor­ney in the case for the ACLU of Ohio, said in a state­ment Fri­day.

Ohio vot­ers in May over­whelm­ingly ap­proved a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to limit how much the ma­jor­ity party could con­trol the process of draw­ing con­gres­sional lines, be­gin­ning in 2022 af­ter re­sults of the next cen­sus are avail­able. The law­suit at­tempts to force changes two years ear­lier.

The Supreme Court is to hear ar­gu­ments on the North Carolina and Mary­land cases on March 26.

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