Talks continue on Ohio’s map-making process

First Posted: 12/3/2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The sponsor of a plan to overhaul the way Ohio draws its state legislative districts said Wednesday progress was being made toward an agreement.

The state alters legislative and congressional district lines every 10 years to reflect population shifts identified by the U.S. Census, a process called redistricting. Both political parties have acknowledged flaws in Ohio’s system, in which state lawmakers draw U.S. House districts and a state Apportionment Board creates legislative maps.

Legislative leaders hope at least to pass a new way of drawing state House and Senate boundaries before their session ends this month.

An Ohio House committee pushed back a hearing on state Rep. Matt Huffman’s redistricting proposal to allow time for Democratic and Republican negotiators to finalize an agreement.

Huffman, a Lima Republican, declined to discuss specific changes being made to his proposal. But he said he was optimistic that the House committee would have a deal to approve when it reconvenes Thursday and that the full House could vote on it later in the day.

While the GOP majority would only need a single Democratic vote to pass the measure in the House, Huffman said it would only get a vote if there’s bipartisan support.

“It has to be something that the public believes folks came together on,” Huffman told reporters.

Movement on the House proposal comes as the Republican leader of the state Senate has introduced a plan of his own.

Under Senate President Keith Faber’s measure, the legislative lines would be drawn by a seven-member panel that includes the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four legislative appointees. A minority-party vote would be needed for their adoption.

Lacking minority-party support, the panel’s statewide officeholders would redraw the maps and put them in place for the next election. Voters would then decide whether the lines remain. If voters approve, the lines would be in place for the next decade. If not, the panel would reconvene and draw them again.

The proposal was scheduled for Senate hearings Wednesday and Thursday morning. Faber told reporters he expects a full Senate vote Thursday.

State Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat, said Faber’s measure would not end the practice of lines being drawn in a way to favor the majority.

“It creates the illusion of bipartisanship when in fact it would maintain our current broken system,” Turner said in a statement. She said Democrats would continue to negotiate with majority Republicans.

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