An Ohio Redistricting Post-Mortem: Editorial
Ohio lawmakers have mercifully ended the tawdry Statehouse war over new congressional district boundaries. The best that can be said for Substitute House Bill 369, which Gov. John Kasich signed Thursday, is that Ohio will now hold one 2012 statewide primary election (March 6), not two.
As to the 16 districts, Republicans conceded some face-saving tweaks to Democrats, including a better chance for two African-American representatives to go to Washington and a less fractured Dayton area. The tweaks also leave U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur's Toledo base more intact -- and thus more challenging to win for Cleveland's Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who loses only a part of his base in the reshuffling (and no one should write off Kucinich, who has more political lives than a cat).
Overall, the tweaks drew enough "yes" votes from General Assembly Democrats to declare the redistricting plan an emergency measure, letting it take immediate effect. Moreover, emergency measures are not subject to referendum, which seems to be Ohio Democrats' preferred political weapon at the moment.
House Bill 369 still represents a sweeping victory for Republicans. In today's politics, there are few sure things. But it is possible, perhaps likely, that next November the GOP will capture 12 of the 16 districts, with just four left to Democrats. That far outstrips Republicans' overall weight in Ohio.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a suburban Cincinnati Republican who helped script what happened in Columbus, must be well pleased with his Statehouse troupe, whose star is Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, a Medina Republican.
The fight that produced House Bill 369 had two virtues, if they may be called that. It exposed Statehouse Republican toadying to Boehner. And it let Ohio House Democrats show how redistricting, as it is now done, must change. True, some of those Democrats spurned reforms when they had the power to pass them. But the blame game is pointless. What's at stake isn't the past, but the future.
In that regard, the bill creates a Redistricting Reform Task Force, composed 50-50 of General Assembly Republicans and Democrats. It's required to propose a congressional redistricting reform plan by June 30. Too often in Columbus, task forces and studies are used to slide a pressing problem off center stage. That must not happen this time, on this topic. If the last four months proved anything, it's that Ohio's redistricting mechanism is not only outdated. It's outrageous.
Related topics: dennis kucinich, general assembly, john boehner, john kasich, marcy kaptur, ohio congressional districts, redistricting, redistricting reform task force, substitute house bill 369, william batchelder