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A Youngstown pastor and community activist, both African American, have filed a federal lawsuit against the Ohio Redistribution Commission, its five Republican members individually and Attorney General Dave Yost, claiming that the new maps of the Congress and the state Senate violate US voting rights law by denying black people the right to vote. voters.

The lawsuit, filed by Rev. Kenneth L. Simon and Helen Youngblood, highlighted testimony from Republicans who drew the maps that show “clear evidence that Ohio legislative leaders intentionally ignored whether the proposed districts were diluting power. the black vote or the existence among other things of the racial bloc vote.

He added, “The state has not only intentionally decided to ignore race and voting rights law, but also previous court findings of official racial discrimination in the Ohio legislative redistribution.”

Simon is senior pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown, chair of the community mobilization committee, and chair of the board of directors of the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches.

Youngblood is a community activist and former union leader who is president of the Mahoning Valley 1619 Project.

The Ohio Redistribution Commission voted 5-2 on Sept. 15 in favor of the state Senate districts, including one that added Carroll County to an existing district that encompasses all of Mahoning – with Youngstown as the city’s la more populated – and the counties of Columbiana.

“Black residents of Youngstown and Warren (the most populous city in Trumbull County) also constitute a population large enough and geographically compact enough to constitute an influential vote in a single-member senatorial constituency,” the lawsuit said.

The two Democratic members of the commission voted against the map drawn by the Republicans and are therefore not prosecuted because they did not “engage in intentional racial discrimination”, according to the lawsuit.

ROLE OF THE COMMISSION

The commission had nothing to do with the congressional redistribution, as it was handled by the Republican leadership of the state legislature, including House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and Senate Speaker Matt Huffman, R-Lima, who are members of the commission and named in the lawsuit.

The Republican-controlled legislature placed all of Mahoning County in a congressional district with the counties of Trumbull, Columbiana, Carroll, Jefferson, Harrison, Belmont, Noble and Monroe and all of Washington County except four cantons.

The state Senate and congressional districts are considered safe for Republicans based on voting trends over the past decade in statewide partisan elections.

“The new (congressional) district will cause an illegal and unconstitutional dilution of the black vote” in Youngstown because there are few African Americans in the rest of the district except Warren, the lawsuit says.

Instead, Mahoning County should have been in a district with “more racially diverse” populations in adjacent counties such as Stark, Summit or Cuyahoga, according to the lawsuit. “The black residents of Youngstown and Warren are a population large enough and geographically compact enough to constitute an influential vote in a congressional district (and) are politically consistent and vote en bloc. “

IN THE PAST

Over the past 20 years, Mahoning, Summit and Trumbull have made up the overwhelming majority of a congressional district represented by Tim Ryan, D-Howland, who is white.

Because the cards haven’t received Democrat backing, they’re only good for four years instead of 10 years. Additionally, the two are the subject of multiple Ohio Supreme Court lawsuits by groups who claim they are being manipulated to unfairly favor Republicans.

The cards dilute “the strength of the black vote and deprive plaintiffs and other black voters in Youngstown and elsewhere in Ohio of an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” the report reads. trial.

The lawsuit also mentions a few times that an African American has never been elected to a Mahoning County-wide office and that “the use of general elections in Mahoning County increases the chances of discrimination. against black people because of a racially polarized vote. “

He added: “Blacks in Youngstown suffer the effects of discrimination in areas such as education, employment and health, hampering their ability to participate effectively in the political process, as evidenced by the murder rate. record in Youngstown. “

SEPARATE MOVEMENT

The lawsuit claims that electing Mahoning County bureau members through a county-wide vote violates the Voting Rights Act.

While none of those prosecuted have control of this matter, the lawsuit states that they “intentionally proposed, adopted and intend to administer and enforce this plan and the electoral procedures to deny and restrict their right to vote by reason of race or color “.

Regarding the general election in the county, the lawsuit said the plaintiffs “will file a separate petition for temporary and preliminary fair relief.”

Akron-based U.S. District Court Judge John R. Adams has been assigned to the case.

Percy Squire is Simon and Youngblood’s lawyer.

He was involved in a successful lawsuit in 1991 to create a State House district centered on Youngstown to give African Americans the opportunity to occupy that seat.

Sylvester Patton of Youngstown, an African American, held this seat for 10 years until the end of 2006. He was replaced by Robert F. Hagan, and then by Hagan’s wife, Michele Lepore-Hagan, who are both white residents and residents of Youngstown.

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