State Reps. Offer Different Takeaways On Redistricting Bill

By
Michael Locklear

Dateline
Updated Thu, Dec 15, 2011 4:30 pm

State Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) says the compromise reached in the statehouse yesterday leaves much to be desired. 

A compromise bill enacts new congressional districts for Ohio and unites the state's two primaries. The House passed the bill 77-17, and later, the Senate signed off on the bill with a 27-6 vote.

Phillips, a Democrat, says only having one primary, which will be held March 6, will save taxpayers at least $15 million.

However, she takes issue with how the redistricting was handled.

"I think that the process has been deeply flawed," Phillips says. "I think the report that came out about the secret negotiations and work that went on in the bunker in a hotel room in Columbus where private business leaders and a key staff person for the speaker of the U.S. House, John Boehner, were involved in working on these maps while the public was closed out of that process raise very serious questions about the overall process. I think that there needs to be a full investigation of how we got to where we are."

State Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) says the new congressional map is about as good as it gets.

"In the case of these maps, you can't please everybody," Thompson says. "You have to do the best you can given the requirements that each side has, and the best barometer of that is to look at what the vote result was."
 
Phillips says the map has huge problems but is a little better than the previous one. "For minority communities, there is a little bit more cohesion in some of those communities. I still think the map is flawed. I think that many counties are divided, cities are divided, communities that have a common interest where a congressperson could, you know, hopefully represent that community are divided, and that is counter to the constitutional requirements for drawing districts."

The bill would also create a task force to study reforms to the map-making process.

The map favors Republicans with 12 of Ohio's 16 U.S. House seats.

"In the interest of protecting the taxpayers, saving the $15 million, and trying to reduce the potential for chaos and confusion for the voters moving into an election year, we felt that it was important to come to some kind of compromise and move forward," said Phillips.

 

Thompson says the vote "would tend to indicate that we had a pretty good consensus." He says in the end, Republicans had substantial support on the Democratic side of the aisle for both parts of the bill.
 
"(By) reunifying the primaries, we avoid any additional costs to the boards of election, and I think it will simplify things... I think that they will be very pleased to know that we won't have two primaries, and that'll be savings to the taxpayers and simplicity for the voters to understand," said Thompson. 
 
"I'm pleased that we're at the end of this process," Thompson says, later adding "I commend the folks that worked on this because it was not an easy process given how heated the political situation can be."
 
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