By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS — The League of Women Voters wants to take politics out of the way political boundaries are drawn in Ohio.
The league announced yesterday that it is gathering signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November, 1999, to change the way the lines between state legislative districts are drawn.
Under the current system, the political party that controls two out of three statewide offices – governor, auditor, and secretary of state – gains control of the Apportionment Board at the start of each decade.
After each census, conducted every 10 years, the board gets to redraw the lines of House and Senate districts, a process that normally benefits the party in control.
The league’s proposal would take that power from the Apportionment Board and allow any citizen to propose a redistricting plan for the state. Then, the secretary of state, using a precise set of rules, would select the plan that does the best job of keeping districts compact and avoids breaking up counties and cities.
Democrats controlled the Apportionment Board in 1971 and 1981. Republicans took control in 1991 and are favorites in next month’s election to keep it in 2001.
Democratic Party chairman David Leland said he had not yet analyzed the details of the league plan, but he liked the idea.
But Norm Cummings, campaign manager for Republican secretary of state candidate Ken Blackwell, said he thinks politics should have a role in the process. “Our government is run by politics.”
One of the most notable local casualties of redistricting by the last Apportionment Board was former Democratic state Rep. Donald Czarcinski, of Toledo. He served District 46 in the House for 10 years until the lines of his district were redrawn by Republicans after the 1990 census.
“They gave most of my district to Barney Quilter, a bunch of it to Casey Jones, and one ward to Tim Greenwood,” he said. “I was redrawn and quartered.”
He was left with only one ward from his old district, with the rest of his district new to him and mostly Republican. He ran against Sally Perz and lost in 1992.
But Mr. Czarcinski said he still would not support the League of Women Voters proposal because party politics is part of the game. “It’s a political process; everyone knows that going in,” he said.