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Published: Friday, 6/17/2011

Funds start process of redrawing state districts


COLUMBUS -- Ohio lawmakers Thursday moved toward adjusting the borders of congressional and state legislative districts to reflect shifts in population.

The Legislative Task Force on Redistricting, Reapportionment, and Demographic Research appropriated $150,000 each to the joint House-Senate Republican caucus and joint Democratic caucus to gather data to make their cases as to how maps should be drawn.

With the 2010 U.S. Census showing Ohio's population growth as stagnant, the Buckeye State will lose two of 18 seats in Congress. At least one is expected to belong to a Democrat, most likely that of U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland.

For Republicans who dominate the Ohio General Assembly, the question becomes whether a map could be redrawn to eliminate a second of the five congressional seats Democrats hold without diluting the GOP strength in other districts.

"It could be one bridge too far…,'' said state House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina), the task force's chairman. "It is on my mind.''

A state apportionment board -- consisting of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, and two state legislators of opposite parties --will redraw state House and Senate districts. That panel would be dominated 4-1 by Republicans. It has a three-month window, beginning Aug. 1, to do its job.

But the redrawing of congressional districts, would be enacted by the General Assembly and signed by the governor just like any other bill. That process faces a deadline of Dec. 7, when candidates must file petitions to run for Congress in the March, 2012, primary.

But a bill is pending that could move Ohio's primary back two months to May. A new congressional map wasn't adopted following the 2000 Census until January 2002.

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