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Published: Thursday, 9/29/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Redrawn maps for legislature receive final OK

Husted calls for frustration, anger over process to cease

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — A Republican-controlled panel Wednesday adopted final maps for Ohio House and Senate districts that had Democrats crying foul, but there was already talk about the next revisions in 2021.

“To all the partisans on both sides, stop," Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio’s top elections official, said. “I know there’s frustration and anger that will be out there today from the minority, and I know with the majority there will be some doing end-zone dances. It has to stop."

Mr. Husted, who voted for the maps as a member of the Ohio Apportionment Board, said he hopes the controversy over them and the congressional district map recently adopted by the General Assembly should serve as an impetus for adoption of a more bipartisan process.

When he was a state senator last session, Mr. Husted pushed a proposed constitutional amendment to reform the system, but it and a competing Democratic proposal failed. In the end, as occurs every 10 years, the 2010 election decided who would control state government and who would hold the pencil and eraser to redraw the maps.

Critics argued that the map will lock in, if not strengthen, GOP control of the chambers for the next decade.

It creates several districts in which two incumbent Democrats would have to battle each other or in which a Republican and Democratic incumbent would compete in a district drawn to favor the Republican.

The map sets up a potential primary battle next year between state Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon), the second highest-ranking Democrat in the House, and Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), a former state senator, in a new 46th District drawn to include both.

The apportionment board passed the final map 4-1, with the sole Democrat on the board, House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D., Beachwood), casting the negative vote.

“The majority map was created in secret; no input from anyone but the majority,” Mr. Budish said. “Maps were rolled out. Here they are. Let’s vote, and we’re done."

Unlike the newly drawn U.S. congressional lines that quickly passed the Ohio legislature last week, the state legislative maps do not go to the General Assembly for a vote.

The board has four Republicans — Gov. John Kasich, Senate President Tom Niehaus, Auditor Dave Yost, and Mr. Husted — and Mr. Budish.

The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, which sponsored its own public competition for rival maps, said 80 percent of the newly drawn districts are preordained to elect a particular party with the real contests happening in primaries instead of the general election.

The campaign said 61 of the 99 districts in the Ohio House of Representatives are either strongly Republican or lean that way. Thirty-three are either strongly Democratic or lean that way. Five are considered to be even matches. The House is currently 59-40 Republican.

The map also does nothing to shake up the dominance of the Ohio Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 23-10.

“I’ve beaten three incumbents in my lifetime," said Gov. John Kasich, who chaired the committee. “I’d never predict the results of an election. You get a good candidate, they can win anywhere. There’s no ‘Lock City’ where people say this is locked down or that is locked down. Forget about it. It just doesn’t work that way."

Under the new map, Toledo and its northern and eastern suburbs would continue to be represented in three strongly Democratic districts.

The central city-based 44th District, held by Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo), would have a nearly 82 percent Democratic index, according to analysis of its territory in prior elections by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting.

The new Fedor-Szollosi 46th, a 57 percent Democrat-performing district, will stretch from the eastern Lucas County suburbs through parts of East, South, and West Toledo to pick up Maumee, Holland, and Springfield Township to the west.

The new 45th, in which no incumbent resides, would have a nearly 63 percent Democrat index. The district includes portions of North, East, and West Toledo; Washington Township; and one Sylvania Township precinct surrounded by the city.

Mr. Szollosi or Ms. Fedor could sidestep an internal party fight in the 46th by moving into the new 45th.

Most of the western Lucas County suburbs remain in the new 47th District held by Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township), but the district, a target of Democrats, is likely to become less of a target now.

Picking up most of Fulton County, the district will now have a nearly 58 percent Republican index.

The only change made to the map Wednesday that affected northwest Ohio involved the new 88th District, held by Rep. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont). The change puts all of Seneca County — with the exception of New Riegel, Big Spring Township, and Loudon Township to the county’s southwest — in the 88th, restoring a lot of the same territory that Mr. Damschroder now represents.

For the same reason, the revised map moves Crawford County from Mr. Damschroder’s district back into the new 87th, held by Rep. Jeffrey McClain (R., Upper Sandusky).

“It was a little better district purely by numbers [in the original GOP map],” Mr. Damschroder said, “but it was not best for voters. Part of the reason I voted against the redistricting of the congressional districts is that I like compact districts. The best representation you could provide is if you live as close as possible to your constituents."

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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