Governor Signs Bill Remapping Congressional Districts

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft on Thursday signed a bill that shrinks Ohio's congressional delegation by one following population shifts recorded in the 2000 census.

The new map reduces Ohio's delegation from 19 to 18. The bill goes into effect immediately, allowing the state to avoid the possibility of having two hold two primary elections this year.

At least one Democrat in Congress immediately threatened a lawsuit after the state Senate on Wednesday passed the bill 22-11.

The House passed the bill Tuesday 71-28.

Sen. C.J. Prentiss, a Democrat from Cleveland, joined majority Republicans in approving the bill in the Senate, which ensures that the new map goes into effect immediately. Democrats agreed to provide at least one vote in return for some say in drawing the map.

Without enough Democratic support, the map would not go into effect in time to hold a congressional primary in May. That could have forced the state to hold two primaries this year, at a cost of about $7 million.

Republicans hold a 21-12 in the Senate and a 59-40 edge in the House. To get the two-thirds majorities to move the bill as an emergency, though, they needed 22 votes in the Senate and 66 in the House.

Democrats inside and outside of Congress, however, complained about some of the district lines. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat, is considering a lawsuit that could be joined by other
congressional Democrats to protest the new lines, Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought said.

Kaptur and other Democrats were upset about Republican encroachment into their predominantly urban districts. They said the map needlessly splits cities and counties.

For example, the district represented by Republican Paul Gillmor would take the southwest corner of Lucas County in Kaptur's Toledo-area district. Republican John Boehner's district would cut into the city of Dayton, now represented by Democrat Tony Hall.

"The map is designed to eventually ensure that southwest Ohio will have no Democrats in Congress," said state Sen. Tom Roberts, a Dayton Democrat.

Ohio faced two lawsuits that grew out of the last redistricting battle in 1992. Then-Congressman Clarence Miller, a Republican, fought to have his district restored after he was moved into a
district represented by fellow Republican Bob McEwen. Another lawsuit was filed by legislative Democrats, who contended the lines were unfair to minority voters. Both lawsuits failed.

Senate President Richard Finan, a Cincinnati Republican, said although the map was made from the majority GOP point of view, it should survive any court action.

"Anyone in the world can challenge this thing," Finan said. "I won't make any bones about it. We wanted to maximize the number of Republican congressmen. But we also worked very hard to do that in the context of what we believe ... is the current state of the law. We feel we've done that."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)