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Lawmakers Hail New Bi-partisan Redistricting Plan

Dec 12, 2014

Ohio lawmakers have finally come to a bi-partisan agreement on redistricting that many are calling historic.

Repubicans and Democrats agree Ohio's current process is flawed. But an agreement passed by legislators in the very early hours of Friday morning will be sold to Ohioans as a way to make that process fairer. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Democratic State Representative Vernon Sykes says the redistricting agreement is historic. 

Sykes “I’m ending my 26th year as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives and this is the most significant bi-partisan activity that I have been involved in in my time here in the House and the general assembly.”

The plan is similar to the one passed by the Ohio House last week.  It still requires more input from the party in the minority. But Republican Senate President Keith Faber says the major change comes in the impasse agreement – the plan for what will happen if it doesn’t get enough support from the party that isn’t in power at the time the map is drawn.

Faber – The biggest difference is whether you are going to do maps for the entire decade or a shorter period of time.  We have agreed to do maps for four years on the first impasse and then the second would be for six years.  I think that gives everybody sufficient risks to make everybody have serious negotiations to get the job done up front.”

Now that lawmakers have reached agreement on legislative redistricting, attention turns to the public. Voters will have to approve this change in the Ohio constitution.  But lawmakers are optimistic about that.  As Republican Representative Matt Huffman explains, this proposal should be much easier for the public to understand than the current process.

Huffman – “I don’t know ultimately that the maps the public will see, at first glance, will look much different but they will be, in fact, the product of a much better process and a much clearer process and one that the public will be able to follow and understand.

Democratic Senator Joe Schiavone says he thinks voters will like this proposed change to the constitution.

Schiavone “It’s a win for the voters in the state of Ohio because we have more competitive districts now and when I am going out and talking to people in districts, that is what they want.”

The one Senator who voted against the new plan, Republican Bill Seitz, said he did so because he thought the process of coming up with this proposal was too rushed.  Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio went down to the Statehouse in the middle of the night, when lawmakers were getting ready to vote on the new proposal. 

Turcer “It’s always scary when they are making late night, early morning decisions and the last amendment is over a comma.  You are talking about a constitutional change so that made me a little squeamish.”

But Turcer says she’s cautiously optimistic this newly passed bipartisan legislation will win voter approval in the end.  It now looks like this proposal would go before voters in the fall of 2015. This new proposal does not affect the process for congressional redistricting.  There’s a federal court case being heard on Arizona’s congressional redistricting process.  Key leaders say they want to see how that turns out before conquering the process here in Ohio.