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Published: Tuesday, 8/23/2011

Apportionment board meets at UT

Panel urged to redraw districts competitively, not politically

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

A witness urged the Ohio Apportionment Board Monday in Toledo to redraw state House districts that are based on "compactness" and "competitiveness," rather than on maximizing incumbent re-election chances.

Catherine Turcer, director of the Ohio Citizen Action's Money in Politics Project, was one of only three people who stepped up to the microphones to comment to a panel representing the apportionment board Monday at the University of Toledo's Scott Park campus.

The traveling panel, including apportionment board member David Yost, held hearings Monday in Lima and Toledo and has more hearings planned each day this week around the state to take public comment on the process to redraw the state's 99 House of Representatives districts and 33 Senate districts based on the 2010 Census.

Ms. Turcer called for more competitive districts that reflect the state's relatively even distribution of Democrats and Republicans, instead of devising districts just to maximize the number of Republican-controlled House seats.

"One district here in Lucas County has an 83 percent Democratic index. I don't know if you could change that and make more competitive districts. I'm here to encourage you to focus on the voters rather than focusing on outcomes," Ms. Turcer said.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action conducted a map contest and will announce the results this week. Ms. Turcer said the winners will be selected based on compactness, competitiveness, and representational fairness.

Ms. Turcer thanked the board for its traveling hearings, but a couple of Democrats criticized the value of the meetings because no proposed maps have been published yet.

"This is a combination of a farce and a joke," said state Rep. Dennis Murray (D., Sandusky) of the 80th House district. His district is made up of Erie County and most of Ottawa County. "They're having a hearing before there's anything to talk about."

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D., Kent), a stand-in for apportionment board member Armond Budish (D., Beachwood), said the lack of maps rendered the hearings somewhat pointless.

"This process I think is antiquated and kind of contrary to the will of the people," Ms. Clyde said. "I'm in the House, which is supposed to be the people's house, but it doesn't seem to reflect the will of the people. I just think the process stinks and Ohio deserves better. There's no reason we shouldn't have maps right now. The data's been available since April."

Mr. Yost agreed there was a disappointing lack of testimony but said that was because people did not know about the event. The Blade published a story about the hearing Monday. He said there were six witnesses at the Lima hearing; five of them wanted to make sure Allen County remains a stand-alone state representative district, and that was an example of the value of the hearings.

"I don't know that I would have particularly understood that Lima would be as unified in support for a singletary district as they are," Mr. Yost said. "It's disappointing we didn't have greater participation here in Toledo."

Toledo witnesses Monday included Matthew Rubin, UT's student body president, and WilliAnn Moore, northwest Ohio region coordinator for the Ohio NAACP. About 30 people were in the audience.

Ms. Moore said there was little advance notice of the hearing but assured the board that the NAACP will follow the reapportionment process closely and make its position known. Mr. Rubin welcomed the panel on behalf of the student body.

Based on guidelines spelled out in the Constitution, the population of each House district can be no more than 5 percent larger or smaller than 116,530 people. Other guidelines require House district lines to reflect existing entities such as counties, townships, and municipalities.

The board is to meet the week of Sept. 25 to propose a map, must agree on an apportionment plan by Oct 1, and publish it by Oct. 5. The board's rules allow for public comments of up to five minutes each during the meeting or meetings to be held the week of Sept. 25.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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