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The Suburbanite
  • Redistricting: A county divided leaves residents confused

  • It may be confusing who your congressman or state representative is because district boundary lines divide several communities in Stark County, in part because Republicans sought to draw the lines in a way to bolster their candidates.

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  • Incumbents may have won every state representative and congressional contest in the county in November. But the majority of people here are experiencing a change in who represents them in the Ohio General Assembly or Congress because of a process that occurs once every 10 years.
    The U.S. and state constitutions required a change in legislative district boundaries in response to new population changes reported by the 2010 Census, because each congressional district has to have roughly the same number of people. The same rule applies to state House and Senate districts.
    THE CHANGES
    In general, Ohio Republicans took Republican-leaning North Canton, Jackson Township and Lawrence Township and placed it in Renacci's 16th District, helping him offset more Democratic areas in Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Democratic-leaning Alliance and Lexington Township was packed into the already very Democratic 13th District represented by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles. The rest of Stark went into the 7th District of U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, who was able to counteract the strong Democratic vote in Massillon and Canton with more conservative voters in the district's nine other counties.
    On the state level, Republicans took Democratic-leaning Massillon out of Republican State Rep. Kirk Schuring's 48th District and placed it in the heavily Democratic 49th District of State Rep. Stephen Slesnick, D-Canton. In exchange, Schuring, R-Jackson Township, got the slightly Democratic leaning Perry Township where he grew up. Slesnick also gained most of Bethlehem Township and all of Pike Township.
    In the 50th District, State Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Township, gained the Republican-leaning northern Plain Township, the rural, conservative communities of eastern Stark County and Democratic-leaning Alliance where she was the 2007 Carnation Festival queen.
    The western six miles of Stark County, which leans Republican, that was in Hagan's district was attached to the Summit County district of State Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley Township, making her swing district a Republican-leaning 38th District. The area also became part of State Sen. Frank LaRose's predominately Summit County district, counteracting the Democratic vote of northern Summit County.
    The state Senate district of Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, was shifted east to include Alliance and Minerva.
    Stark voters had the chance to vote in November for state representative and congressional candidates in the new districts. But because both state senators LaRose and Oelslager were in the middle of their four year terms, LaRose's new constituents in western Stark County and Oelslager's new constituents in eastern Stark County did not have the opportunity to vote on them.
    State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who had represented Alliance and eastern Stark for four years, will now represent Mahoning and Columbiana counties. Mark Okey, the Democrat from Carrollton who was the state representative for eastern Stark for three terms, didn't run for re-election as his district was broken up.
    Page 2 of 4 - DIVIDED
    Adding to the confusion is that some communities in Stark County — such as Plain Township, Perry Township and Lake Township are each divided into two or three different state legislative and congressional districts. This is in part due to Ohio Republicans' desire to draw the lines to  maximize the number of Republicans elected to the statehouse and Congress.
    Ohio Republicans won control of the redistricting process in 2010 by winning the governor's office, the Secretary of State's office and the Ohio House majority.
    Working in a secretly booked hotel suite in Columbus, Republican state legislative staffers and a top aide to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, used sophisticated mapping software to take advantage of the fact it doesn't matter whether their candidates win by 51 percent or 80 percent.
    They grouped together enough Republican-leaning neighborhoods to create a large number of Republican-leaning districts. Because Democrats tend to live in concentrated areas in cities, the staffers were able to consolidate them in a smaller number of very strongly Democratic-leaning districts.
    Therefore, Democratic candidates like State Rep. Stephen Slesnick of Canton and Congressman Tim Ryan of Niles won their races by very large margins. With Democratic voters placed into these districts, Republican candidates in neighboring districts were more likely to win.
    Though Ohio Democratic congressional candidates got 47 percent of the votes statewide, they ended up with 25 percent of Ohio's 16 congressional seats. In Stark County, Democratic congressional candidates got 51 percent of the vote, but two of the county's three congressmen ended up being Republicans. Republican state representative candidates got 50.9 percent of the county vote, and yet three of the county's four representatives are Republicans.
    “They took the heaviest Democratic area of Stark County ... that was carved out of Stark County to help Renacci then they offset that area with other Republican areas,” said Canton Mayor William J. Healy II, a Democrat.
    State Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Township, who voted for the congressional redistricting plan, said Democratic criticism of the new districts is unwarranted.
    “I think the process is fair. The process has been proven constitutional. We have this conversation every 10 years despite who's in leadership. The opposition is always going to make slanderous comments. It doesn't matter if it's true or accurate. ... we have followed the constitution as it's written. We've done our job. If (the Democrats are) in leadership, they'll do their job.”
    Here's a listing of the changes in congressional and state legislative representation in Stark County:
    Alliance, Lexington Township, islands of Washington Township in Alliance, Limaville
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Mark Okey and State Sen. Joe Schiavoni
    2013: Congressman Tim Ryan, State Rep. Christina Hagan and State Sen. Scott Oelslager.
    Page 3 of 4 -  
    Washington Township (outside Alliance), Paris Township, Minerva (in Stark County
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Mark Okey and State Sen. Joe Schiavoni
    2013: Congressman Bob Gibbs, State Rep. Christina Hagan and State Sen. Scott Oelslager
    Canton, Canton Township (except part around Meyers Lake), Lake Township (east of Market Avenue), Hartville, Marlboro Township, Nimishillen Township, Louisville, East Canton, Osnaburg Township, Sandy Township, Magnolia in Stark County, Waynesburg
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci
    2013: Congressman Bob Gibbs
    Note: One small part of Osnaburg Township due to an annexation by Canton will be represented by State Rep. Stephen Slesnick rather than Christina Hagan.
    Canton Township around Meyers Lake, Meyers Lake
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Stephen Slesnick
    2013: Congressman Bob Gibbs, State Rep. Kirk Schuring
    Pike Township, East Sparta, Bethlehem Township
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Christina Hagan
    2013: Congressman Bob Gibbs, State Rep. Stephen Slesnick (except one precinct will be represented by State Rep. Kirk Schuring)
    Navarre
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Christina Hagan
    2013: Congressman Bob Gibbs, State Rep. Kirk Schuring
    Massillon
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Kirk Schuring, State Sen. Scott Oelslager
    2013: Congressman Bob Gibbs, Wards 1-5 State Rep. Stephen Slesnick and State Sen. Scott Oelslager, Ward 6 State Rep. Marilyn Slaby and State Sen. Frank LaRose.
    Canal Fulton, Lawrence Township
    2012: State Rep. Christina Hagan and State Sen. Scott Oelslager
    2013: State Rep. Marilyn Slaby and State Sen. Frank LaRose
    Tuscarawas Township, Sugar Creek Township, Brewster, Wilmot, Beach City
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Christina Hagan, State Sen. Scott Oelslager
    2013: Congressman Bob Gibbs, State Rep. Marilyn Slaby , State Sen. Frank LaRose (except islands in Massillon will be represented by State Rep. Stephen Slesnick and State Sen. Scott Oelslager)
    Plain Township
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, State Rep. Kirk Schuring except three southern Plain Township precincts represented by State Rep. Stephen Slesnick
    2013: Part of northwestern Plain Township: Congressman Jim Renacci. Rest of Plain Township: Congressman Bob Gibbs. Northern Plain Township: State Rep. Christina Hagan. Eastern and southwestern Plain Township: State Rep. Kirk Schuring. All or part of six southern precincts: State Rep. Stephen Slesnick.
    Perry Township
    2012: Congressman Jim Renacci, Eastern Perry Township: State Rep. Stephen Slesnick, Western Perry Township: State Rep. Christina Hagan
    2013: Area generally bounded by Faircrest Street, Perry Drive and Whipple Avenue up to the Lake Sippo Lake area: Congressman Jim Renacci. Rest of Perry Township: Congressman Bob Gibbs. State Rep. Kirk Schuring represents all of Perry Township except three precincts in Massillon represented by State Rep. Stephen Slesnick.
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