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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – Ohio House Rule 115 stipulates that a two-thirds vote of all the members present is needed to suspend virtually all House Rules. Trying to bring a new congressional map to the floor for a vote Thursday, House Republicans, who normally can control the activity on the House floor on any measure because they outnumber Democrats 59-40, fell four votes short of the number needed to push through tweaks to their proposal to establish new Congressional and state legislative districts for the next decade.
Had all 99 Members been present, the threshold vote would have been 66, but since not all members were present, the number needed was reduced to 62. In any event, the final vote of 58-34 keeps the issue in play for another day.
Following the vote that was preceded by lots of fury and vitriol, House Democrats accused the GOP Majority Caucus of rejecting a compromise proposal for new congressional districts that would end a redistricting standoff and give voters the final say in the makeup of Ohio’s congressional delegation.
“We’ve put forth a reasonable proposal that recognizes the current political makeup, but gives voters the ultimate say in who represents them in Congress,” House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) said in prepared remarks. The former Speaker of the House from 2008-2010, added that their proposal was a fair one “that avoids significantly breaking apart communities, strengthens the voice of Ohio voters and improves accountability through an increased number of competitive elections.”
House Republicans, led by Speaker William Batchelder, blamed Democrats for the situation. In a carefully prepared rebuttal following today’s inaction, House GOP communicators pointed to three attempts by the Majority Caucus to fix the problem.
“Why, one might ask, would public servants on three separate occasions choose to embrace this timing problem and cause legal chaos?” the House GOP mused. The answer, according to them, came from Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Redfern, a former House Member who they said previously voted for the current congressional map, House Bill 471, as an emergency in 2002. “If Republicans don’t negotiate fairer maps with Democrats, a federal court could create a new map, or the state could elect 16 congressional representatives on an ‘at large’ basis,” Redfern said, as reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
House Republicans said their map is even more fair than maps drawn by other parties, specifically the League of Women Voters, because their maps are based on election results over time, instead of just two cycles (2008 and 2010).
Reports said Buckeye legislators had not seen the map even two hours before they were to vote on it. One of the newsworthy tweaks in the map was designed to address issues expressed by the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which wants more African-American voters concentrated into districts, giving them more influence to elect more blacks to Congress.
Budish said his team’s proposed map would have significantly improved the potential for minority representation in Ohio’s major metropolitan areas. “We had hoped that this reasonable proposal would be given serious consideration. Instead of working together, however, the GOP would rather continue their partisan overreach in an attempt to consolidate their political power in every way possible,” he said.
The new proposal, Budish argued, increases the competitiveness in 6 of the current districts and further consolidates communities of interest in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo. “The map that is expected to be on the floor today creates few competitive districts from HB 319, which has been called one of the worst gerrymanders in modern memory,” he said.
Major highlights of the bill that failed, according to House Republicans, are as follows:
- Enacts 16 new Congressional districts in Ohio
- Repeals the map as enacted in House Bill 319
- Reinstates one primary date for all elections: March 6, 2012
- Saves taxpayers $15 million in previously appropriated money that will now be unappropriated and also reinstates the August 2012 special election
- Declares an emergency for all portions of the bill
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