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Republicans unveil redistricting plan



Published: Fri, May 5, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The proposal wouldn't be used until 2011.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Ohio House Republicans on Thursday unveiled a plan that would change how state legislative and congressional districts are drawn.

The hope to get the issue on the November statewide ballot.

Republicans say the proposal was crafted with input from Democrats and others and would be a fairer way to redraw the state's legislative and congressional district lines than the current system.

Right now, every ten years the state Legislature redraws congressional districts, and the five-member state Apportionment Board -- made up of the governor, the state auditor, the secretary of state and one legislative representative from each party -- redraws state House and Senate districts to reflect population shifts.

The proposal unveiled by House Republicans would modify the state's Constitution to create an independent seven-member commission to redraw state legislative and congressional district lines in Ohio.

Under the plan

The proposal would require the majority and minority leaders in each legislative chamber to appoint a person to the redistricting commission, which would allow for equal representation, backers said.

The four political appointees would then select the three remaining members by unanimous vote, according to the proposal.

Also, a "super majority" vote of the proposed commission -- five members -- would have to approve the new legislative and congressional districts under the proposal.

If it makes it onto the ballot and is approved by voters, the proposal would take effect in 2011.

"My hope is in the spirit of trying to do what's right that folks will look at this and say it's fair," said state Rep. Kevin DeWine, a Fairborn Republican who's the point person for the proposal in the Ohio House.

Defeated amendments

The proposal comes in the wake of defeat last year of four proposed constitutional voting and election-reform amendments championed by a coalition of Democratic-leaning groups called Reform Ohio Now.

Among the defeated amendments was one that would have handed responsibility for crafting legislation and congressional districts to an appointed commission.

Majority House Republicans reached out to Reform Ohio Now officials shortly after last year's general election to try to develop a revamped legislative and congressional district redistricting plan.

Ed Jerse, who was the campaign director for Reform Ohio Now, said he and others have had input into the plan offered by House Republicans.

"It's kind of a simpler version and more sellable," Jerse said of the new plan.

"Now, it's really up to the Legislature to see if the language is acceptable," said Jerse, who is a former Democratic member of the Ohio House.

Majority Senate Republican leaders couldn't be reached to comment Thursday.

But at least one Democratic legislative leader said she had not seen any specifics.

"We have not been at the table with them," Assistant Senate Minority Leader Kimberly Zurz said.

Zurz, a Summit County Democrat, said with the defeat of the proposed Reform Ohio Now amendments last year, she's curious as to why the current proposal is necessary.

"It seems odd to me that we're doing something now," Zurz said.

DeWine said he expects to introduce the proposal in the House next week.

The proposal must be ratified by a three-fifths majority in both chambers by Aug. 9 to appear on the Nov. 7. general election ballot.




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