In the News in Ohio

Editorial: Remap reform

TOLEDO (Feb. 21, 2012) — Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who sits on the Apportionment Board, called the system that allows the majority party to redraw district lines to its advantage “partisan” and “dysfunctional.” Last month, he wrote to House Speaker William Batchelder (R., Medina) to warn that if the General Assembly doesn’t act to make the process appear less partisan, “outside groups will move forward with their own plans.”

The groups that the state’s chief elections official cites apparently include the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause Ohio. They are working on a constitutional amendment that would put redistricting in the hands of a nonpartisan citizens’ panel. The current system shows what happens when foxes run the henhouse. Even those who recognize the abuse can’t bring themselves to relinquish control.

Ohioans could wait for years and several more elections for the constitutional modernization commission to embrace reform. Or the Supreme Court could force the issue by declaring the current system unconstitutional and suggesting a better way to represent the interests of all Ohioans in electing state lawmakers. The guiding principle should be that voters pick their elected officials, not the other way around.” Toledo Blade.

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Op Ed: With a little thought, it’s obvious these things make no sense

COLUMBUS (Jan. 30, 2012) — U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester told Politicolast week that he thought Republicans had gerrymandered enough congressional districts around the country to retain control of the House through 2020.

Certainly Boehner and fellow GOP map-makers did their part in Ohio. Of the 16 new districts they drew, 12 are so ironclad Republican that even Mo, Larry or Curly could win with an R behind his name. Boehner’s braying that Republicans will hold the House for another 10 years prompts this question: To what end?…

And now, Boehner has bargained for even more of them. He — and the country — might do better if more Republicans (and Democrats) were elected in competitive districts. Gerrymandering renders general elections mere coronations of partisan primary election winners and too often yields politicians from both parties who are far outside the mainstream.” JoeHallett, The Columbus Dispatch.

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Editorial: Two groups, one better idea for redrawing districts

AKRON (January 25, 2012) — As Ohio voters will soon discover, candidates for the U.S. House and state legislature are running this year in reconfigured districts. Once every decade, after each census, lines must be redrawn to equalize population. This time, the process was brutal. With Republicans firmly in control, the real goal was to maximize political advantage. As critics like to point out, the politicians chose the voters, not the other way around.

It would be tempting to dismiss complaints about the highly partisan way Ohio redraws districts as sour grapes. Ohio is a competitive state, so if one side seizes the advantage, it doesn’t last long. In the end, things will balance out, the argument goes.

The trouble is, when one party controls the process, the temptation is to draw districts moderates don’t have a chance of winning for an entire decade. This year, for example, Republicans created safe districts for themselves by packing Democrats into a smaller number of districts that are just as safe, if not more so.” Steve Hoffman, Akron Beacon Journal.

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Ohio Republicans question Dems’ lawsuit expenses

COLUMBUS (Jan. 11, 2012) — Ohio House Republicans have asked the state’s attorney general and auditor to review legal fees billed to taxpayers by Democrats as part of a lawsuit brought on behalf of private citizens over newly drawn state legislative districts….

Democrats filed the lawsuit over the Republican-drawn legislative lines last week with the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of three dozen affected Ohioans. They claim GOP state leaders who controlled the mapmaking process violated provisions of the state constitution that prohibit political maps from unnecessarily splitting communities between districts….

Catherine Turcer said it highlights the need to rethink how lines are drawn.

“Why leave this in the hands of people who have such a conflict of interest?” said Turcer, a co-founder of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting and director of the Money in Politics project that researches contributions to Ohio’s statewide and legislative candidates. Ann Sanner, Associated Press.

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Editorial: Crash this party

TOLEDO (Jan. 11, 2012) — Ohio Democrats are suing to block the Republican-imposed gerrymander of the state’s legislative districts — the basis of voters’ political representation in Columbus. The lawsuit would seem to have little chance of success, because the primary election is less than two months away and the plaintiffs must persuade a state Supreme Court that is six-sevenths Republican to order a new plan.

Still, the suit’s argument is correct: The Republican officials who drew the new boundaries of state House and Senate districts made an almost exclusive priority of keeping and enhancing GOP control of the General Assembly for the next decade. They largely ignored such vital political values as creating compact and contiguous districts that cross county and municipal lines as little as possible, promoting partisan competition, and running a transparent process.

It’s probably too late now to change the legislative maps, or the equally outrageous new reapportionment plan for Ohio’s U.S. House districts. But it’s not too early for Ohioans who want fair and effective political representation to take the line-drawing process out of the hands of either party and assign it to an independent, nonpartisan body.” Toledo Blade.

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Editorial: Follow that gang

AKRON (Jan. 11, 2012) — The bitter confrontation over new congressional districts remains fresh in the minds of state lawmakers. Meanwhile, Democrats still are fighting new Ohio House and Senate districts, hoping the Ohio Supreme Court will redraw them even as a March 6 primary approaches.

All that, and the distance until the next round of redistricting after the next census, means it is a good time to think again about reforming the hyperpartisan ways Ohio redraws political boundaries. Figuring out who will control the legislature (which redraws congressional lines) and the apportionment board (the statewide officeholders who control legislative lines) in 2021 is beyond even the most sophisticated forecasting.

A group of four legislators, among them two from the Akron area, is making a solid start on improving the process for reshaping congressional and legislative districts. In the Senate, Frank LaRose, a Copley Township Republican, has teamed with Tom Sawyer, an Akron Democrat. They have been joined by House members Mike Duffey, a Worthington Republican, and Ted Celeste, a Grandview Heights Democrat. Akron Beacon Journal.

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“Gang of four” says coalition’s redistricting plan too complex

COLUMBUS (Jan. 10, 2012) — The group of four lawmakers who are working on a new system for drawing legislative and congressional maps is critical of a recent draft plan developed by a coalition of non-partisan advocates.

The Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, a coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action that has pushed for more competitive districts, has developed a plan that calls for creating a citizen panel, with appellate judges assisting in picking the members.

Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action said one goal is to take major political players and ‘party hacks’ out of the process to avoid ‘sweetheart deals’ that protect incumbents in both parties. Turcer said the proposal involves appellate judges because they are not connected to the legislature and would not ultimately decide the constitutionality of a new map.” Jim Siegel, The Columbus Dispatch.

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Democrats suing to scrap Ohio’s new state legislative districts

COLUMBUS (Jan. 5, 2012) — Ohio Democrats today asked the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn new Republican-drawn state legislative maps that, they say, unconstitutionally split too many communities and are based on improper factors, such as the political leanings of each district….
The map is different from the congressional map that Democrats reluctantly agreed to support last month after their effort to collect enough signatures to overturn the map on the ballot was falling short.

Unlike the congressional map, which is approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, there is no way to force a referendum on the legislative maps. The only way to challenge them is through a lawsuit. ” Jim Siegel, The Columbus Dispatch.

Democrats file lawsuit over new Statehouse legislative districts with Ohio Supreme Court

Aaron Marshall, The Plain Dealer.

Democrats try once again to stop new, GOP-drawn map of Congressional districts

Minority Democrats in the Ohio legislature have been complaining that a newly-drawn map of legislative districts could virtually insure that Republican control for the next decade. Now Democrats have a vehicle for blocking that new map. Their allies have filed a lawsuit at the Ohio Supreme Court. Bill Cohen, Statehouse News Bureau.

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Group says Ohio’s new congressional map lacks competition, fairness

COLUMBUS (Dec. 22, 2011) — Richard Gunther [Ohio State University political scientist professor] today called the new congressional map signed into law last week by Gov. John Kasich “stunning” for its representational unfairness, saying it is twice as unfair as the next-worst democratic systems in the world….

Gunther and Daniel Tokaji, an OSU law professor specializing in election law, spoke at a news conference sponsored by a nonpartisan watchdog organization, the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, to decry the secretive process of redrawing new congressional and legislative districts every 10 years and the outcome that resulted this year….

The group is exploring ways to remove the line-drawing process from politicians, including going to the November ballot with a referendum that would create a citizens commission to redraw congressional and legislative districts in 2013 for elections that would take place in 2014. Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch.

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