Statewide Database

Redistricting issue remains unsettled GOP gets Democrats to defeat own plan

Paper: Plain Dealer, The ( Cleveland, OH)

Date: May 26, 2006

Columbus - House Republicans outmaneuvered their Democratic counterparts Thursday, getting them to vote down not one - but two - proposals designed to fashion a better system of drawing legislative and congressional districts.

After Democrats defeated the initial GOP-sponsored plan, Republicans put them on the spot by resurrecting a 14-month-old proposal sponsored by Cincinnati Democrat Rep. Steve Driehaus.

Rep. Kevin DeWine, a suburban Dayton Republican, said he felt so strongly about the need for reform that he could support either one.

Clearly stunned, Democrats voted down Driehaus' redistricting plan - even though each had signed on as a co-sponsor.

When the votes were tallied, Chief of Staff Scott Borgemenke told reporters that Democrats "cannot argue for reform any longer."

But Democrats did anyway.

At a post-session news conference, Democrats accused Republicans of an election year "gimmick" and Driehaus insisted more time is needed to study the issue and reach a consensus. He and other Democrats pledged to continue work on the issue, even if the November election hands them control of the map-making process.

Democrats are viewed as having the best chance in decades of wresting control of the Ohio Apportionment Board, a panel that draws legislative district boundaries every 10 years. Its members are the governor, state auditor, secretary of state and two legislators. Ohio will elect a new governor, auditor and secretary of state in November.

House Speaker Jon Husted, a suburban Dayton Republican, also promised to continue work on reforms.

"This is not a lost effort. This is something that I feel passionate about, that I think is important to the state of Ohio, and we can't let today set us back," he said.

Husted embraced the cause last year after voters trounced a measure that called for transferring the power to draw district boundaries from the politicians to an independent commission. At the time, he said he found the reform measure flawed but agreed Ohio's partisan map-making system had to end.

Since then, DeWine had worked behind the scenes with former State Rep. Ed Jerse of Shaker Heights, Democratic state treasurer candidate Richard Cordray, Republican legislative staff members, academics and the League of Women Voters. When the negotiations were wrapping up, some House Democrats joined the talks.

The meetings resulted in a plan to ask voters in November to allow a seven-member commission to draw district boundaries. Legislators would appoint two Republican and two Democratic members. Those four would choose the remaining three.

A five-member majority would be needed to approve any map. Disputes would be resolved by the GOP-dominated Ohio Supreme Court.

To qualify for the ballot, the measure needs support from three-fifths of each legislative chamber by Aug. 9.

Jerse said he is disappointed that his former Democratic colleagues did not support the plan.

"Having been in the minority, I understand the frustrations people have in being excluded," he said. "This was a good plan that had a lot of promise."

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Copyright, 2006, The Plain Dealer. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.

Author: Sandy Theis

Section: Metro

Page: B10

Copyright, 2006, The Plain Dealer. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.