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Published: Wednesday, 3/2/2005

Fedor, Ujvagi to introduce package of election reforms

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Charging that a Republican bill would not do anything to solve "critical problems'' in Ohio's election system, two state lawmakers from Toledo will introduce a package of legislation today to overhaul how elections are run.

The proposals would amend Ohio's Constitution to create a "bipartisan'' state board to draw legislative and congressional district lines, form a "bipartisan'' state election board to oversee elections, revise where provisional ballots can be cast, and alter how recounts are funded.

"Last year, the voters of this state suffered through long lines, questionable machines, and unclear rules and procedures," said state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), sponsor of two Senate bills and a resolution. "We need an election system that is effective, efficient, and modern.''

State Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) will sponsor two of the three measures in the House of Representatives. State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D., Cincinnati) will sponsor the proposed constitutional amendment.

Although the Democratic bills likely will be ignored in the GOP-controlled legislature, Ms. Fedor said she hopes to "negotiate'' with Republican legislators.

But state Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R., Cuyahoga Falls), chairman of the State and Local Government Committee, questioned why Ms. Fedor introduced a bill instead of working to amend a bill that he is sponsoring.

"It's political grandstanding," he said.

Mr. Coughlin's bill, which the GOP listed among its top priority measures this session, would codify the optical-scan ballot in state law and how votes would be counted, require voters to present identification at the polls, and place provisional balloting rules into law. A new version of the bill is expected to increase the amount a losing candidate has to pay for a recount from $10 to $25 per precinct.

The bill that Ms. Fedor and Mr. Ujvagi plan to introduce would create a bipartisan statewide board of elections that would appoint a "nonpartisan'' executive director to supervise elections. The secretary of state would remain in control of business services, Mr. Driehaus said.

Ms. Fedor and Mr. Driehaus plan to introduce a resolution to amend the state Constitution to create a five-member board to set legislative and congressional districts every 10 years.

One member would each be appointed by the House speaker, the Senate president, the Senate minority caucus, and the House minority caucus. A fifth member would be picked by a majority vote and serve as chairman.

Currently, the lines are drawn by a five-member board - the governor, secretary of state, auditor, a member chosen by the House speaker and Senate president, and a member chosen by the legislative minority leaders. Four of the last five apportionment board members were Republicans.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com or

614-221-0496.



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