Saturday, Feb 17, 2018
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Editorials

GOP needs redistricting pact

Time is running out for a bipartisan redistricting plan by the Ohio General Assembly, and the burden is heavily on the Republicans.

The Republicans, who gave us the “snake by the lake” — the highly gerrymandered 9th Congressional District that includes most of Toledo, have a responsibility to see that the snake is stamped out and something more compact and representative replaces it.

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The 9th District is predominantly based in the Cleveland media market, though it flows along Lake Erie into Toledo. The current representative is Marcy Kaptur of Toledo. A 9th District race without Miss Kaptur in it would likely to end up being won by a Cleveland resident. That would end more than a century in which a Toledoan has a been a member of Congress.

Time is running out because Feb. 7 is the deadline for Republicans to pass a bill to put a question on the May 8 ballot.

The Republican plan, as sponsored by Republican state Sen. Matt Huffman of Lima, was to tweak the existing process to enhance minority participation in designing congressional districts. However, the Huffman plan failed to attract any Democratic support — what a surprise — because it still leaves the majority party in total control of congressional lines.

Given total control, it’s safe to assume Republicans will use the power to squeeze out as many Republican votes for Congress as possible, regardless of the misrepresentational monstrosity that would have to be created to make it happen.

This week, Mr. Huffman said he’s disinclined to move ahead with a bill that doesn’t have Democratic support.

He made some compromise offers to the Democrats, who appear to be holding out for a bipartisan commission such as the one that is used to draw state legislative boundaries.

If the GOP plan doesn’t go on the ballot May 8, then a nonpartisan commission plan sponsored by Fair Districts = Fair Elections Ohio would likely go on the November ballot for voter approval. Republicans are confident that voters won’t approve the nonpartisan commission plan if it doesn’t have bipartisan support.

If that plan fails in November then the General Assembly would have to return to the issue in 2019, and maybe even again in 2020. The redistricting can’t take place until after the 2020 census anyway.

We don’t need an apology for the snake by the lake, like the apology Mr. Huffman had to make for some inappropriate jokes he told at a Republican roast recently in Columbus. But we do need rational and representational districts. The gerrymander created in 2011 creates a credibility problem. No one now trusts the GOP majority to do the right thing, or to not abuse its power.

Mr. Huffman needs to return to negotiating with the Democrats and the leadership of the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Ohio coalition, and come up with a districting plan all can support.

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