Map Battle Likely to Continue

Political Map Battle Likely to Continue

 By Laura Bischoff | Thursday, January 12, 2012, 03:36 PM

  Although lawmakers agreed last month on a bill that carves out 16 new congressional district maps, the arguing over how Ohio should draw legislative and congressional maps is not dying down.

This week, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who has been pushing for reform for seven years, urged House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, to consider revamping the process as part of an overall update of the Ohio Constitution.

“There are many ways to improve upon the partisan, dysfunctional system that currently exists,” Husted wrote to Batchelder and members of the Constitutional Modernization Commission. “In my view, we need to find the right balance between three important virtues: compactness, competitiveness and maintaining communities of interest.”

Husted said the reforms could be accomplished through either the modernization commission or the special commission established in House Bill 369, which set the new districts. He said working through these two entities could position Ohio to have a proposed constitutional amendment by Aug. 8 so that it can go before voters in November.

“If we do not act, I believe outside groups will move forward with their own plans, without the benefit of the public input process and thorough review the Constitutional Modernization Commission is capable of providing,” Husted said.

Indeed, a coalition of election reform groups sent a letter to legislative leaders this week, calling for a non-partisan citizens panel to draw the political maps — not a bipartisan panel loaded with politicians who may have conflicts of interest.

The group, which includes the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause Ohio, said it is working on a constitutional amendment to present to voters this fall.

In 2005, Ohio voters defeated four citizen-initiated election reform proposals, including one that would have created a new legislative district drawing authority.

Currently, the redistricting processes are controlled by the majority party in power after the U.S. Census is taken. The Ohio Apportionment Board, which consists of the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, House speaker and Senate president, draws legislative maps and the General Assembly draws congressional maps.