Minorities Challenge Redistricting Plan

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A challenge by minorities of the state's new legislative districts got under way in federal court Monday.

Three judges in Columbus heard arguments filed by Ohio Democrats and black voters. Their federal lawsuit charges that the new districts weaken the voting power of minorities and make it harder for blacks to be elected.

Democrats say the new districts discriminate against minority voters in Hamilton, Franklin, Mahoning and Montgomery counties.

Attorneys defending the plan say the new map didn't spread minority voters too thin to elect black candidates.

Lawsuits typically are filed over the redistricting plan by the party that is not in charge. The political party that controls the board historically has drawn the districts to favor its members.

The three-judge panel ruled against a request by Democrats to force Gov. Bob Taft and other Republican state officials who created the plan to testify.

The trial is expected to last through Wednesday.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)