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Ohio Dems sue over congressional map and Census redistricting Kucinich, Kaptur, Sutton, and Renacci affected

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Sept. 28, 2011 (AP): Ohio Democrats followed through Wednesday on threats to sue over a last-minute legislative maneuver by Republicans that effectively shields Ohio's new congressional map from a ballot challenge.

In a lawsuit filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Democratic Party asked justices to weigh in on whether lawmakers acted legally when they added money for county election boards to the redistricting bill as it neared approval last week.

Laws that call for state spending are immune from repeal under Ohio's constitution. However, the high court ruled in a high-profile 2009 case that a group challenging then-Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland's plan to legalize racetrack slots had a right to challenge the plan even though it was part of a state budget bill.

Marcy Kaptur

LetOhioVote.org, the campaign against the slots, eventually abandoned its challenge, but Democrats are pointing to the legal precedent set in the case in making their arguments to the court. Their formal goal is gaining an opportunity to put a repeal question before voters in 2012, but making a successful case could also prompt a federal judge to intervene and order the mapmakers back to the drawing board.

The money added to the bill also means it takes effect immediately, instead of after the usual 90 days. The deadline for congressional candidates to file is Dec. 7, so a map must be in place by then.

The map, which Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law Monday, has been widely derided by Democrats and voter groups who say the GOP gerrymandered the lines to protect their control of Ohio's congressional delegation.

Ohio lost two U.S. House seats—reducing its number of representatives from 18 to 16—because of slow population growth compared to the rest of the country. Voter advocacy groups, such as the Ohio League of Women Voters, say the new map makes 12 of those seats safe for Republicans.

The map squeezes six sitting members of Congress into three districts, setting up potential primary face-offs between Republicans Mike Turner and Steve Austria in southern Ohio and Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur for a district along Lake Erie. It also places Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton into the district of Republican Jim Renacci.

A new Democratic-leaning district was added that contains most of Columbus and its home county, Franklin.

The new 9th Congressional District stretches from Toledo to Cleveland along the banks of Lake Erie, and the new 15th District is an elongated backward ``C'' shape that stretches over 800 miles and touches parts of 13 counties.

The GOP-led Ohio Senate defended adding the $2.75 million in state spending to the bill. The money is to be used by the elections boards to make changes associated with the new map.

Ohio State University law professor Dan Tokaji has said the Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that only the appropriation portion of an appropriation bill is safe from voter repeal, not the rest of the legislation.

State Sen. Keith Faber, who is an attorney, has said if the appropriation is necessary to implementation of the bill, the two cannot be separated for purposes of repeal.

Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/04/11 06:11:34 -0700.





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