Ohio's legislative leaders have been talking behind closed doors, trying to make changes to the Ohio congressional redistricting map that would get it more support from Democrats. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.
The congressional redistricting map is already law but Democrats have been threatening to put it before voters…saying it makes it hard for their candidates to get elected in most of the districts. Republican legislative leaders want to avoid a referendum or a long court battle. Mike Dittoe, a spokesman for Republican Speaker Bill Batchelder, says the leader is working, behind closed doors, with some Democratic leaders to draw a new congressional map.
Dittoe -The Speaker is continuing to meet to see if there can be some sort of an agreement on a map that we can continue to work on and talk about. The Speaker is not only interested in seeking an emergency clause. He's also interested in talking to legislators to see what would work best in their communities. We've been soliciting input through the committee process and I think there was some confusion on that and we want to let everyone know that there's certainly opportunity to get this fixed and certainly avoid a referendum.
Dittoe explains the in order for the legislature to pass a replacement map with an emergency clause that will allow it to go into effect immediately, two thirds of lawmakers….or at least seven Democrats in the house…..will have to vote for it. If that happens, Dittoe says there would still be time to change the presidential and congressional primary, now scheduled for June, back to March where it was in the first place.
Dittoe - I think as negotiations and discussions continue we will have to be in a wait and see what happens move but I can tell you the ultimate goals are not only to avoid a referendum but I know the Speaker and members of our caucus would like to avoid two primaries but we've been put in an unfortunate position.
Redfern - It doesn't literally make any sense to divide the primaries up
That's Chris Redfern, leader of the Ohio Democratic party. He says if Republicans find themselves in an unfortunate position, it's only because they put themselves there.
Redfern - They want to cast blame, point fingers, and suggest that I or the Democrats are standing in the way of an orderly primary. Primaries are set by the legislature. And in this case, the legislature can set a primary for May with all offices on the ballot at the same time. It's been done in the past and could be done in the future. But I think that this Speaker and his staff are far more interested in politics than they are in drafting a bill that could get wide bipartisan support.
Redfern says he just wants a map that's more competitive and fair. And if lawmakers pass a new map that does that, he says the petition efforts won't be necessary. Redfern says petitions for a planned referendum are being printed and he expects to outline the plan for that effort next week. If they go through with plans for a referendum, the petition signatures will be due around Christmas.