Redistricting Set For Ideas

 
Redistricting Contest All Set For Your Ideas

Organizers hope exercise helps find a viable solution. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 03:09 AM
By Ben Geier. 

Think you could do a better job than politicians at drawing legislative and congressional districts? Your chance is now.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Midwest Democracy Network and Ohio Citizen Action kicked off a competition yesterday to allow Ohioans to create their own new maps for the Ohio House and Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

"We are here today to launch a campaign that has the potential to change the way redistricting is done in Ohio and throughout the country," said Jim Slagle of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting.

Each map submitted will be given a grade based on four factors - preserving county boundaries, compactness, competitiveness and representational fairness.

Story continues belowAdvertisement Ann Henkener of the League of Women Voters of Ohio said that based on these categories, the current map for congressional districts would receive a failing grade.

The contest has $5,000 available in cash prizes.

At a news conference yesterday, experts and advocates talked about how important redistricting is to all citizens.

Meg Flack, the president of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said redistricting "affects every issue" and "representative democracy as we know it depends on (redistricting)."

Dan Tokaji, a law professor and election-law expert at Ohio State University, said that, unlike people in his profession, many voters aren't in the know about redistricting. This contest, he said, is their chance to get involved and for "the people to take back the reins of power, whatever their political beliefs."

In Ohio, two different groups are responsible for redistricting. The Ohio Apportionment Board draws the districts for both houses of the Ohio legislature. This committee consists of Gov. John Kasich, state Auditor Dave Yost, Secretary of State Jon Husted and one Democrat and one Republican appointed by the leaders of the state legislature.

The U.S. congressional districts, though, are drawn by the state legislature. Ohio is losing two seats in Congress. The House and Senate committees will begin a series of hearings on this process today, holding one this morning starting at 9 in the Statehouse's Senate Finance Committee hearing room, and one this afternoon starting at 3 in the campus center on the Ohio State University branch campus in Zanesville. Three more will be held over the next two weeks.

The contest is completely independent of the official redistricting process, and lawmakers are under no obligation to take the suggestions. Slagle, though, said that the input of citizens should be taken seriously.

Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Husted, said the secretary of state's office is "for an open and transparent process."

The contest is open until Aug. 21 for state legislative plans and Sept. 11 for U.S. congressional plans. The contest's website is www.drawthelineohio.org.

bgeier@dispatch.com