Drawing new legislative boundaries

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, October 11, 2011

According to the U.S. Constitution and Ohio Constitution, every 10 years after the U.S. Census is conducted, a redrawing of the legislative districts must be done to ensure that each legislator is representing the same amount of people.

In the case of the U.S. House, the districts are approved by the state legislature.

The Ohio Apportionment Board has the authority to decide the House and Senate districts for the state legislature itself.

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The board includes the auditor, governor, secretary of state, and a legislator from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

This time around, there were four Republicans and one Democrat on the board. During the past General Assembly, there was an effort to make the process more balanced, which passed (with my support) the Republican-controlled Senate.

But the House, led by Democrat Speaker Armond Budish, refused to bring it to a vote.

Unfortunately, re-drawing the districts is usually seen as a political process, and this time was no exception. Because other parts of the nation grew faster than the rest of the country, Ohio lost two seats in the United States Congress.

As a result, two of the new districts currently have more than one incumbent congressman of the same party living within them.

In drawing the districts, special consideration has to be given to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act, such as maintaining minority (African-American) districts and keeping the population of each district nearly identical.

Because the districts must have the same amount of people, some of the districts take on interesting shapes to fit everyone in.

The 87th Ohio House District that I currently represent falls mostly in the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta.

The exception is Vinton and Ross counties, which will be represented in the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers. Some of the people in Ross County will be represented by other neighboring congressional seats.

Regarding the legislative districts for the Ohio House, the apportionment board voted 4 to 1 to accept a plan that includes most of the current 87th House District as one, which becomes the 93rd District in the next election.

The 93rd District (There are 99 representatives.) will include Jackson and Gallia counties, and parts of Lawrence and Vinton counties. Part of Vinton will now be in the 94th House District, which encompasses Athens, Meigs, and parts of other surrounding counties.

Most of Vinton County will be in the 93rd, with the exception of Hamden and Wilkesville. The part of Ross County that is in the 87th will no longer be in the 93rd. The 93rd picks up more of Lawrence County with the exception of Hanging Rock, Ironton and Coal Grove.

Meanwhile, the 17th Senate District will still include the area of the 93rd House District. Just because an area is no longer in your district does not mean that you stop representing their interests.

I will still be there to help as much as I can, being in close proximity. I enjoy working in Lawrence County, and I look forward to having more of it to represent.

As with any reapportionment, there will be lawsuits pending and a possible referendum, but only time will tell the results. The finalized maps are available through the secretary of state’s office, which can be found at www.ReshapeOhio.org.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He can be reached at (614) 466-1366, by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215, or via e-mail at District87@ohr.state.oh.us.