Speaker shows lukewarm interest in redistricting reform
By: Jim Siegel
The Columbus Dispatch - January 18, 2012 10:01 AM
The list of priority legislation for House Republicans this year did not include an effort to revamp Ohio’s hyper-partisan process for drawing legislative and congressional districts.
“Interesting,” Speaker William G. Batchelder said with a laugh when reminded that the issue was not among those discussed during a press conference yesterday to highlight past accomplishments and what leaders hope to tackle in 2012. “That was all the newspapers could talk about for awhile there.”
As part of the congressional map deal passed in December, a new legislative task force was created to examine an alternative way of drawing district lines, and a recommendation is due by the end of June.
Under the current system, the legislature draws the congressional map and the five-member state Apportionment Board draws legislative maps. The ruling party gerrymanders the lines to its own maximum benefit, often crafting a host of uncompetitive districts, so in a state like Ohio that is politically competitive, Republicans, for example, have a solid chance to win 12 of 16 congressional seats.
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a coalition of nonpartisan organizations, and a small, bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing for a fairer way to draw the maps.
“I personally would think it would be an advisable thing to look at,” said Batchelder, R-Medina. “There was plenty of hoo-ray over the last one, but I did notice I had (77) votes. More Democrats voted for that than voted against it. So I understand the concern of the media and some college faculty members, but it doesn’t really seem to have caused people to think that if they voted for it, they’d lose their jobs.”
Democrats agreed to pass a slightly revised congressional map after their efforts to collect enough signatures to referendum a prior GOP-passed map was falling short.
“I have no idea where we’ll get with it. It’s something, over the years, that has been very difficult,” Batchelder said, pointing to California’s situation where an appointed panel drew maps and “there are more people mad about that than are in favor of it. It’s not like this is something out of the New Testament.”