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Redrawn Ohio map will dilute Athens County Democrats' sway

Ohio legislators passed a bill establishing new congressional districts yesterday, raising concerns from local politicians about gerrymandering that could dilute Athens County’s liberal voting habits.

The Ohio Senate approved House Bill 319 yesterday with a vote of 24-7, approving the redistricting plans the Ohio House passed last week. The districts were drawn to accommodate Ohio’s loss of two U.S. House seats, which reflected a population loss in the 2010 census.

“It’s just more right-wing crap,” said Bill Bias, Athens County Democratic party chairman.

Ohio Sen. Troy Balderson, R-20, who took Jimmy Stewart’s seat following his summer resignation, voted in favor of the bill, said Josh Eck, Balderson’s spokesman.

Balderson thinks the bill is fair, considering the lines would likely remove one congressional seat, from each party, Eck said.

“There are constitutional requirements, and the process is more complex than most people know,” said Eck. “The lines reflect what the communities asked for.”

However, the Republican-drawn district lines were placed purposefully to dilute the influence of Athens County voters on congressional races because they typically vote for Democratic candidates, Bias said.

Ohio University also played a large role in where the lines were drawn, he said.

“Any progressive philosophy that OU students may have brought to the races is now diluted,” Bias said. “The Republicans aren’t stupid.”

Under the bill, Athens County would remain split between two congressional districts. The majority of the county, including the city of Athens, would become part of the 15th District while Carthage and Troy townships would remain in the 6th District.

Athens County Republican Party Chairman Pete Couladis and Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-92, have said the new district lines will hurt the county.

“I would have preferred to have the county intact and not so scattered around,” Couladis said in an interview last week. “I’m hoping it will be in one district as much as possible.”

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