Council ignored ballot petitions at meeting to redraw wards

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – When Youngstown City Council met this week, it approved the city’s ward redistricting plan. However, it’s the action council members didn’t take that could get them into trouble.

The citizen’s group Draw the Line collected enough signatures to ask voters to approve reducing the number of wards in the city from seven to five. Their petitions went to Council, where it should have been voted on to send the ballot question to the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

Youngstown Law Director Martin Hume said there is no doubt council should have acted.

“Once the required number of signatures is presented, it is their mandatory duty to send it on so that the voters can address the issue,” Hume said.

Instead, council approved their plan to redraw ward lines, keeping the number of council seats at seven. That decision does not sit well with the organizers.

“City Council is required by Ohio constitution to pass an ordinance to get that on to the ballot,” said Nick Serra, community activist. “The confusing part was at the last city council meeting when they were supposed to, they just voted it down even though they are required to pass it.”

Hume said council has opened the city up to a lawsuit, one it would probably lose. A court would order that council send the petitions to the Board of Elections but if it they are not in before the deadline, there would have to be a special election rather than a vote during the general election.

Serra said he was caught off guard by council’s actions.

“You expect opposition, but you don’t expect them to try and delay it at that late of a date,” Serra said.

Serra said the community group would force a lawsuit if necessary.

Council has until Sept. 5 to get the ballot petitions to the Board of Elections.


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