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Redistricting Issue Up for Vote in Ohio

November 2, 2012
By JOSELYN KING - Political Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Ohio voters will answer Tuesday whether they think an appointed 12-person committee should draw the state's congressional and legislative lines after each census.

Ohio Issue 2 creates a state-funded 12-member commission to draw legislative and Congressional districts, removing the authority of elected state leaders in the process. Redistricting in Ohio is presently the duty of the five-member Ohio Apportionment Board - comprised of the sitting governor; the secretary of state; the state auditor; a member selected by the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and the senate leader of the same party; and a member selected by the house and senate leaders of other party.

Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, said he has already cast his ballot in favor of Issue 2.

"The last round of redistricting got a little too extreme in the gerrymandering," Cera said. "This is something that needs to be looked at and considered."

But former State Senator Jim Carnes, a Republican, believes Issue 2 creates "an absolute layer of bureaucracy that is totally unnecessary."

"I really hate it," he said. "When you set up a supposed non-partisan board appointed by appellate judges - that's not apolitical. When it takes two pages to explain a constitutional amendment on the amendment, the answer is most always 'no.'"

The voters will actually decide the fate of two state issues when they go to the polls on Election Day. The first, Issue 1, asks voters, "Shall there be a convention to revise, alter, or amend the Ohio Constitution?" A provision within the Ohio Constitution requires this question be asked of voters every 20 years, and it last went before voters in 1992. Both Carnes and Cera said they see no reason for a constitutional convention in Ohio.

Cera noted a Constitutional Modernization Commission already has been established in the state, and it is charged with recommending proposed amendments to be placed on the ballot before voters.

Carnes added the forefathers of both the U.S. and Ohio constitutions used much foresight when they drafted the original constitutions, and that it was unlikely leaders today "are smarter" to want to change it.

Issue 2, meanwhile, has sparked more controversy with its proposal to create a redistricting commission. Under the terms of the amendment, four of the 12 members must be affiliated with the Democrat Party, and the next four with the Republican Party. The remaining four members could not be associated with either party.

A panel of judges selected by the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court would appoint the members to the committee. Voters in favor of establishing the commission should vote "yes," and those opposed should vote "no."

"I've looked at some of the districts (created in Ohio after the 2010 census)," Cera said. "There were a lot of questionable activities that occurred.

"The party in power is always going to try and look out for their best interest. But this time, they went way beyond what has in past. We have to change how districts are drawn."

Carnes believes Issue 2 to be a ploy by Democrats and organized labor to take control of the state's apportionment board.

"They don't control it," Carnes said. "If they did, we would never hear a thing (about establishing an appointed board). It's appalling to me they would do something like this. They're trying to legislate through constitutional amendment. ... It's a terrible, terrible amendment to put before voters."

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