ICYMI: To Defend Their Gerrymandered Maps, Ohio Republicans Hire Extreme Lawyers Who Defended ‘Largest Racial Gerrymanders Ever Encountered’
December 7, 2021
For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Columbus, OH — In case you missed it, Republicans Bob Cupp and Matt Huffman have hired lawyers connected to a case a federal court called one of the “largest racial gerrymanders ever encountered” to defend their unconstitutional, gerrymandered maps after map drawers admitted they were directed by Republican lawmakers not to take race or demographics into consideration when drawing the maps that disproportionately hurt Black and brown voters.
Last week, two Youngstown residents filed a lawsuit accusing the Republican majority Ohio Redistricting Commission of drawing maps that violate the Voting Rights Act and that discriminate against Black Ohioans.
Huffman and Cupp’s new lawyers are so extreme that even their own party has rejected them in the past. When President Donald Trump nominated Farr in 2017 to serve as a federal judge in North Carolina, the Republican-controlled Senate declined to confirm Farr citing his past work as counsel to the 1984 and 1990 reelection campaigns for the late North Carolina Republican, U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms in which the Department of Justice found Farr part of an attempt to “intimidate and threaten Black voters” in the state through mailers suggesting they were ineligible to vote.
“It’s not a mistake. I’m sure they looked at their resumes and said, ‘Wow, we need them,’” said Bob Hall, former director of voter rights advocacy group Democracy North Carolina, in the Ohio Capital Journal report.
“The two lawyers Bob Cupp and Matt Huffman hired to represent them tell you everything you need to know about who these two politicians are looking out for, and it’s clearly not Ohio voters. Cupp and Huffman know their maps are unfair and unconstitutional and they’re desperate to use any means necessary to screw over Ohioans to suit their own political interests and the needs of their special interest friends,” said Matt Keyes, spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party.
You can read more from the Ohio Capital Journal here and below:
- Defending themselves against accusations of gerrymandering, the Ohio House speaker and Senate president hired a team of lawyers with a history defending North Carolina against what a federal court called one of the “largest racial gerrymanders ever encountered.”
- Two lawyers they chose, Thomas Farr and Phillip Strach, are well-known in legal circles for defending North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting proposal and the state’s sweeping voter restriction law passed in 2013. After years of litigation, both were overturned by the courts, which found they were designed to dilute and disenfranchise Black voting power.
- “It’s not a mistake. I’m sure they looked at their resumes and said, ‘Wow, we need them,’” said Bob Hall, former director of voter rights advocacy group Democracy North Carolina, of the hiring.
- Both Farr and Strach also defended North Carolina against a challenge to a 2013 North Carolina law that required voters to present state-issued identification at the polls, limited early voting, rolled back “souls to the polls” Sunday voting, ended same-day voter registration and more. A panel on the 4th Circuit of Appeals overturned the law on constitutional grounds. The judges wrote that the law targeted Black voters “with almost surgical precision” and purports to solve voter fraud and other “problems that did not exist.” The U.S. Supreme Court declined to resurrect the law on an appeal.
- After hearing arguments on the North Carolina redistricting plan drawn and enacted in 2011, a three-judge federal court panel in 2017 stated the maps were “among the largest racial gerrymanders ever encountered by a federal court” that amount to a “widespread, serious, and longstanding” constitutional violation. In a similar lawsuit regarding the composition of two majority-Black congressional districts, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the maps, deeming them unlawful racial gerrymanders.
- A third lawyer representing Cupp and Huffman, John Branch, reportedly represented Republican Mark Harris in a state investigation after Harris’ campaign operative was criminally accused and later convicted of ballot fraud in a 2018 North Carolina congressional election.