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Published: Thursday, 7/19/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Petitions for vote on remap fall short


COLUMBUS -- A petition effort to put a new way to redraw congressional and legislative districts to Ohio voters fell well short in its first attempt.

Backers have until July 28 to fill the gap of nearly 131,000 valid signatures of registered voters if they hope to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

Secretary of State Jon Husted on Wednesday notified the Voters First coalition that only 254,625 of the roughly 450,000 purported signatures submitted withstood scrutiny by county election boards. A total of least 385,253 is needed.

Voters would be asked to approve a constitutional amendment creating a nonpartisan commission to redraw congressional and state legislative districts, something typically done after each once-in-a-decade U.S. Census. The commissioners would be largely selected by a panel of judges. Elected and nonelected government officials, their families, and major political donors could not serve.

Currently, lawmakers adopt congressional district maps as they would any other bill that would be signed by the governor. For the 99 state House and 33 Senate districts, a panel consisting of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and two lawmakers of opposite parties draws the maps.

In the last two redistricting rounds, the process has been controlled by Republicans, who drew district boundaries benefiting their candidates.

"As of today, out of 2,000 petitions we have examined, more than 10 percent contain grossly inflated signature numbers," said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett. "It is continuously becoming ever clearer that the Voters First petition is based on fraud and deceit. …

"It is important that the public be aware of this abuse of the ballot initiative system," he said. "We cannot allow dishonest special interests to hijack Ohio's redistricting process."

Voters First joined forces late in the game with We Are Ohio, which engineered last year's successful ballot issue killing Senate Bill 5, the law restricting public employee unions' bargaining power.

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

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