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Published: Friday, 9/30/2005

Foes of redistricting plan in Ohio warn of disaster


COLUMBUS - Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment overhauling how Ohio redraws congressional and legislative districts attempted to make their point yesterday that mixing Republican red and Democratic blue to create competitive purple on a map would have disastrous results for the state.

The Republican-dominated Ohio First Inc. said it created a congressional map by using the mathematical formula and ideals contained in Issue 4 set for the Nov. 8 ballot. Ohio First is the nonprofit organization quietly created in July to fight proposed constitutional reforms of Ohio's election system

The resulting map creates several narrow districts snaking nearly from Pennsylvania to Indiana and dividing numerous counties.

Reform Ohio Now, the largely Democratic group pushing the proposed amendment, accused the opposition of taking the process to an illogical extreme as a scare tactic.

"The proponents of Issue 4 want you to believe that this map represents the state of Ohio, that we have equal numbers of blue voters and red voters living symbiotically side by side in a house next to each other spread evenly across the state as if it was peanut butter, so that it is a beautiful purple state...," said state Rep. Kevin DeWine (R., Fairborn) of Ohio First.

Although Ohio is nearly equally divided in terms of party registration, Democrats are concentrated largely in major urban centers, south-central Ohio, the former steel centers along the Ohio River, and the shore of Lake Erie, creating concentrated islands of blue in a sea of Republican red.

Mr. DeWine made no attempt to defend the current system that, after every U.S. Census, calls for the General Assembly to adjust congressional districts through legislation to reflect population shifts. The current system uses a five-member panel entirely made up of elected officials to redraw state Senate and House districts.

One of the four amendments Reform Ohio Now has successfully placed on the Nov. 8 ballot would replace both processes with a new five-member commission on which no elected official could sit.

It would field maps submitted by others, score them as to how many politically competitive districts they create, and then weigh the results against constitutional and court guidelines of keeping districts compact, dividing as few communities as possible, and protecting minority voting clout.

According to Ohio First supporters, the state's current congressional map - which was drawn by Republicans in 2001 - would score a minus 9 on Reform Ohio Now's scoring system, with 36 the highest possible score.

By comparison, they say, the map drawn by Ohio House Republicans for Ohio First scores a 23, containing 13 competitive districts out of Ohio's 18 congressional seats.

The Ohio First map would replace the current Toledo-based district represented by Miss Kaptur, stretching from western Lucas County east to Lorain, with a narrow right-angle district snaking west from Toledo to the Indiana border and then south into the Miami Valley.

Contact Jim Provance at:


or 614-221-0496.

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