Wednesday, January 23, 2002

House OKs new districts

Change mandated by 2000 census

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The House approved a bill Tuesday to remap Ohio's congressional districts despite last-minute concerns raised by the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

        The vote was 71-28, with Democrats providing the necessary votes for the bill to take effect as soon as it becomes law.

        Without that provision, the state wouldn't have time for a congressional primary in May and might have to resort to the costly alternative of two primaries.

        The new map is required to reflect population shifts recorded in the 2000 census. Greater growth in other states cost Ohio one congressional seat.

        Several Democrats refused to vote for the bill, saying it split communities — such as the Mahoning Valley — and diminished the influence of minorities.

        The Senate immediately voted to take up the bill in the Senate Rules Committee, the only committee chaired by Senate President Richard Finan, a Cincinnati Republican.

        A full Senate vote was expected today.

        Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Finan said fellow Republicans were trying to undermine the bill.

        Mr. Finan wouldn't say which Republicans have objected to the proposed map.

        But Bob Bennett, Ohio's GOP chairman, said he wanted more competitive districts in northeast Ohio than the plan provides.

        He said he was upset by a last-minute change to the bill Thursday in the House State Government Committee.

        That change put more of Democrat-rich inner-city Akron's voters into a district where Democrat Tom Sawyer likely will run.

        In return, that district lost parts of northern Summit County, including Cuyahoga Falls, to districts that would be sought by Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Steven LaTourette.

        The changes would make Mr. Sawyer stronger in a primary challenge from Mahoning and Trumbull counties, now represented by Democrat James Traficant.

        Mr. Traficant, who faces trial on federal bribery and corruption charges next month, was moved into a district expected to be sought by Democrat Ted Strickland.


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