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Commissioner drops his idea of legal suit



Published: Sat, February 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The county prosecutor said there is no legal precedent for such a lawsuit.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Commissioner Ed Reese has backed off his plan to sue the state over congressional redistricting because he doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

"It would be an uphill battle," Reese said. "It doesn't look like it's going to happen."

Reese had threatened to sue over the new congressional boundaries that split Mahoning County among the 6th and 17th districts. The plan was announced last month and will take effect next year.

Reese was upset that the section of Mahoning County in the 6th district is lumped in with 11 other counties stretching southward some 250 miles along the Ohio River. Mahoning County has nothing in common with most of that area, he said.

No precedent: But Prosecutor Paul Gains said there's no legal precedent to file a lawsuit over the matter.

The only case he found in which a government body successfully sued over congressional redistricting was a suit filed by the city of Detroit. There, the city proved that the new boundaries caused it to lose significant federal funding.

"We can't prove that here," Gains said. "Unless we can show that there is some damage, the commissioners have no legal standing."

The damage must be actual, not speculative, Gains said.

He said the county could sue if the new boundaries dramatically alter minority voting blocs, but there's no evidence of that.

Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock said she would not have gone along with a lawsuit had one been filed because she doesn't believe anything illegal happened in the redistricting.

"First of all, it is certainly not unusual for counties in Ohio to contain more than one congressional district," Sherlock said.

In fact, she said that under the new plan, which takes effect in 2003, there will be 20 counties in Ohio that belong to more than one congressional district.

"Obviously, we have not been singled out," she said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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