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Ohio Democrats threaten to go to voters or courts to fight GOP boundaries
GOP defends boundaries as legal and balanced; Democrats say the lines represent gerrymandering at its worst
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 
The new congressional map for Ohio drawn by state House Republicans has drawn fire from Democrats.
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Later today, state lawmakers will likely vote on a redistricting map that makes changes to Ohio’s congressional districts. That map takes into account the loss of two congressional seats based on Ohio’s lagging population reflected in the most recent census. There’s a lot of controversy over that map….so much that the map could wind up in the hands of a court…or even on the statewide ballot. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports.

Ingles on the debate over Ohio's new congressional boundaries

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House Minority Leader Armond Budish says the map being considered by majority Republicans is a mess.

Budish – This is a Gerrymander that is far more egregious that we’ve seen in the past (outcue ….in the past :04)

Budish says the map puts some of the state’s richest school districts in with some of the poorest.  And he doubts one congressional representative would be able to represent all of the distinct needs of such a diverse district.  That point is echoed by Democratic Representative Tom Letson.

Letson = We have literally gone dow n the middle of the road in 160 communities and says your next door neighbor and you are not represented by the same person, even though you’ve lived in the same town, township or county your whole life.  This is absurd.  (outcue….is absurd :20)

And Budish says this map is so partisan that voters in some districts will find the election is decided in partisan primaries.

Budish – For those Ohioans who like the hyper partisanship and the political dysfunction in Washington and in Columbus, you’ll love this new congressional map.  But for those Ohioans who are fed up and don’t like what they are seeing today, for those who want to end the political dysfunction, then let’s look at the other maps that were submitted to the committee.(outcue….to the committee :24)

The Democrats want majority Republicans to give the public more time to weigh in on the maps before voting on them.  And they want lawmakers to look at maps that scored high in a map drawing contest sponsored by a coalition called the Ohio Campaign for Accountable redistricting.  That group’s leader, Jim Slagle, says maps were scored on a variety of factors including compactness, competitiveness and other qualities that make districts a fair fight for all parties.  In fact, Slagle says he scored the map being considered by lawmakers today…and it ranked dead last.  But Republican Representative Matt Huffman says the criteria Slagles group used is flawed.

 

Huffman – If you look at the coalition and members of that coalition, groups like NARAL and some other groups….I could see why they would say the coalition board members would like these things considered.  My guess is if we had a coalition made up of the NRA and Right to Life and a number of right leaning organizations, they might come up with their own list of criteria and it would be substantially different than what we have now.  (outcue….we have now :30)


Huffman says maps submitted by the coalition are unconsititonal.  He says the map his committee has approved for lawmakers to consider is constitutional and uses different criteria….like following the federal voting rights act for example.  As far as keeping communities together, Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder says that’s not a major consideration.


Batchelder – That’s not relevant in a federal redistricting (outcue…federal redistricting :05)


Batchelder says he’s not willing to allow Democrats and the public more time to weigh in on the proposed plan because there’s no time to waste.


Batchelder – Having it clear what’s going to happen is advantageous not just to members but the districts that are going to want to visit with new representatives that they have.  (outcue…that they have :11)


But Democrats are playing hardball.  They say they won’t provide needed votes to pass a bill that would swiftly move the primary from March to May.  The leader of Ohio’s Democratic Party is talking about putting the map up for a referendum.  And the Democratic representatives are also talking about court action.

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