Saturday, May 24, 2003

Judges say legislative maps didn't discriminate

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The state board that redrew legislative districts for the 2002 election did not discriminate against minorities, three federal judges ruled Friday.

The panel unanimously upheld the plan approved in 2001 by the State Apportionment Board, dominated 4-1 by Republicans.

Legislative Democrats had sued the board, claiming it drew lines that suppressed the election of blacks in Ohio, and especially in four big-city counties: Franklin, Hamilton, Mahoning and Montgomery.

The Democrats did not prove the plan was drawn in a way that a white majority voting as a bloc could defeat a minority-preferred candidate, the judges said. The evidence the Democrats presented was "insufficient to show that the predominant factor in devising the redistrict plan was race," wrote Chief Judge Boyce Martin of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The board is required to redraw districts every 10 years to reflect population shifts found in the U.S. Census. Ohio law states the board must use the U.S. and Ohio constitutions and the federal Voting Rights Act as guides.

Republican consultant Scott Borgemenke drew the new lines in consultation with Floyd Johnson, the state redistricting director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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