Thursday, Feb 22, 2018
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Redistrict for the greater good

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Ohio needs a process for designing congressional districts that puts the interests of the citizens first, rather than the politicians.

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Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly who appeared hell-bent on pushing through another partisan congressional redistricting plan have unexpectedly stopped in order to let some Democrats on board.

It looks like Republicans are starting to see that voters in Ohio are fed up with heavy-handed GOP power plays of the type that gave us the “snake by the lake” — Marcy Kaptur’s 9th congressional district that follows Lake Erie 125 miles from southwest Toledo to the west side of Cleveland.

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The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Matt Huffman (R., Lima), announced that he would not bring the Republican redistricting reform plan up for a vote without some Democratic votes. Senate President Larry Obhof (R., Medina) has gone a step further to say he wants the good-government groups to agree on a legislative solution as well, and drop their Fair Districts Ohio citizen initiative from the ballot this year.

That means Senator Huffman and the Republicans might have to accept a plan that denies them ultimate control of Ohio’s congressional districts.

Such a move would be a good step toward ensuring that Congressional districts will have more political balance than they do now. One result would likely be more geographical “compactness” and fewer counties and cities cut up for political purposes.

This is not to say that political considerations won’t still be the main criteria of the solons in the Ohio General Assembly. It just means that the worst excesses would be canceled out.

The reason for this apparent change of heart? It is to keep Democrats from endorsing the Fair Districts citizen redistricting intiative that is planned for the November ballot. The Fair Districts plan would move the congressional districting process to a bipartisan commission.

Congressional districting comes up every 10 years following the census. Ohio now has 16 congressional districts, of which 12 are considered predominantly Republican and four are predominantly Democratic.

The next census, because of Ohio’s sluggish population growth, could cause Ohio to lose one congressional district.

The current Republican plan creates a three-step mechanism that requires the majority party to attempt to get the minority party’s support to create a 10-year congressional district map. But if minority views can’t be accommodated, the majority can still impose its own map for a four-year period.

It’s a bad plan because if Republicans — and Democrats in the same situation — have the ability to squeeze out another GOP vote for the U.S. House of Representatives, they’ll do it, even if it means having to revisit the map in in four years.

Ohio needs a process for designing congressional districts that puts the interests of the citizens first, rather than the politicians. The General Assembly needs to crush the “snake by the lake.”

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