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Drawing party lines

October 8, 2012 - Rob Weaver
The best argument in favor of changing the way Ohio’s legislative and congressional maps are drawn is a simple one.

It’s the maps themselves.

Because the state is divided into 99 house districts, the map showing state representative’s districts is the least offensive. Still, we have districts with rather curious shapes. Examples include the 95th and 96th districts in eastern Ohio. Of course, the two townships in Seneca County which are part of the 87th district also seems odd.

Next, look at the map of state senate districts and note the shapes of the 20th and 31st.

As for the congressional district map, one needn’t look far from home; the 4th and 5th districts seem like candidates for change. Considering both lean Republican, couldn’t Allen, Auglaize and Shelby counties be swapped for Hancock, Hardin and Wyandot?

A proposal to change the redistricting process -- Issue 2 on the general election ballot -- isn’t as simple, however; in fact, it sounds more complicated than the procedure it would replace.

Now, the Ohio Legislature draws the U.S. House districts.

State legislative districts are drawn by the five-member state apportionment board -- comprised of the governor, secretary of state, state auditor and two legislative appointees from opposing parties.

Simply put, Issue 2 would result in a 12-member commission of state residents tasked with redrawing Ohio's legislative and congressional maps. But drafting that dozen would be a complex process.

First, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme court would randomly select a panel of eight appeals court judges. Those appellate judges then would pick 42 finalists from a pool of 14 Republicans, 14 Democrats and 14 unaffiliated people. Legislative leaders of Democratic and Republican parties could eliminate up to three names from each pool. Three names would be drawn from each pool by lottery. Those nine then would select the remaining three, one from each pool.

Got it?

Hopefully, among those 12 would be a computer programmer who could write an application to craft districts that would be convenient for voters and elected representatives, plus keep as many counties as possible in a single district. Then, instead of arguing over districts that favor Democrats or Republicans, the dividing dozen could haggle over an entirely different divisive issue:

Macintosh or Windows operating system?


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The map of new Ohio House districts