Ohio lawmakers settle redistricting fight, skip referendum

COLUMBUS, Ohio Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:12pm EST

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Ohio lawmakers this week settled a fight over a congressional redistricting map, eliminating the possibility of a referendum vote over the issue in 2012.

State lawmakers approved a new map, along with a plan to avert two primaries next spring, which will save the state $15 million.

Earlier this year, Democrats began collecting signatures to put a referendum on the statewide ballot to get rid of an earlier map that had been signed into law. Democrats complained that the map gave an advantage to Republicans.

At the same time, the Republican-dominated legislature voted to split the federal and state primaries, putting the state primary in March and the federal primary in June.

This week's compromise resolves both the primary and the map issues. Ohioans will vote for candidates in both federal and state primaries in one election on March 6.

While some Democrats voted for the new map, many still say it is unfair and are calling for a formal state investigation into how the maps were developed. The new map has 12 Republican-leaning districts and four Democratic-leaning districts -- just as the earlier map did.

The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting issued a report saying that state Republicans gave U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who is from the Cincinnati area, control over the map.

"Speaker John Boehner's political team was driving this process and we've documented that in e-mails that were exchanged," said Jim Slagle, leader of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting.

Mike Dittoe, a spokesman for the Ohio House Republican Caucus, said an aide of Boehner's aide was consulted during the process, but that there was nothing wrong with that as others also were asked for input.

Slagle's group has started gathering signatures to put an issue on the ballot in 2013 that, if approved, would turn redistricting over to a bipartisan board, taking it out of the hands of politicians.

The measure would also allow the state to draw new districts again in 2014 under the new rules.

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)

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