Friday, August 03, 2001

Board promises citizen input

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — At its first meeting Thursday, the board charged with redrawing Ohio's legislative district lines promised to open the process to citizens more than ever before.

        The five-member Apportionment Board's only Democrat, however, said the public should have more time to comment on the plan it intends to adopt.

    The public hearing schedule for the state Apportionment Board, which will redraw Ohio's legislative districts by Oct. 5:
    • Aug. 20: University of Toledo, 10 a.m.-noon; University of Findlay, 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
    • Aug. 21: Cleveland State University, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.; University of Akron, 1 p.m.-3 p.m.; Walsh University, North Canton, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
    • Aug. 22: University of Cincinnati, 10 a.m.-noon; University of Dayton, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
    • Aug. 23: Muskingum College, New Concord, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
    • Aug. 24: Ohio State University-Newark, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.; Columbus State Community College, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
        The board elected Gov. Bob Taft as its chairman, Auditor Jim Petro as its vice chairman and political consultant Scott Borgemenke, a former aide to Mr. Taft, as its secretary. Mr. Taft, Mr. Petro, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and House Speaker Larry Householder are the Republicans on the board. Senate Minority Leader Leigh Herington is a Democrat.

        Ohio's 99 House and 33 Senate districts must be redrawn to reflect population shifts found in last year's census. The House districts are drawn first, then three House districts are combined to form one Senate district. The new maps must be published by Oct. 5.

        The board will hold 10 hearings at colleges around the state Aug. 20-24, then meet to review redistricting plans Oct. 1. The board will consider any plan that would hold up under the Ohio Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. However, the board historically has adopted the maps designed by its own staff.

        The constitution requires a district be as compact as possible and gives preference to cities and counties that can qualify as a single district. The Supreme Court rulings mostly concern the makeup of districts with large minority populations.

        Plans must be submitted by Sept. 24 to Mr. Blackwell's office, which will post them on a special Internet site. The date was a compromise between the proposed rules and a Herington amendment. Mr. Herington later complained that the board would not meet until five days before the maps must be published.


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