With gerrymandering comes strong opinions. But what is it?
The saga over drawing Ohio’s legislative districts has been intense, despite a shorter deadline to redraw district maps. But it is not finished.
With a potential court battle ahead, as well as a new deadline, this time for congressional districts, the concept of gerrymandering is on people’s minds.
Gerrymandering returns every 10 years, after the release of census data, and the districts that define state officials and senators, as well as Ohio congressional leaders, are redesigned during the redistribution process.
The concept of gerrymandering dates back to the 1800s, when Elbridge Gerry, who would become James Madison’s vice president, endorsed a partisan district in the Boston area that looked like a salamander.
Ohio has seen odd shapes here, like the 9th Congressional District which has been called the “Lakeside Serpent” in northern Ohio, and what some call the 4th District “Duck District”. of the Central Ohio Congress.
Since then, the term has historically referred to the manipulation of political districts to favor one political party over another.
“This type of mapping narrows voter choice and leads to fewer competitive elections and less accountable elected officials to their constituents,” the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause Ohio said in a report on gerrymandering.
In maps passed Thursday, Republicans say they would lose 6 seats in the Ohio legislature, but still have an advantage. The map shows Republicans with 62 seats in the House, leaving Democrats with 37. In the State Senate, Republicans would hold 23 seats, Democrats would only have 10. Both leave the qualified majority in place, majorities that reduce the power of the governor. veto on legislation.
Under the requirements set out in the 2015 Constitutional Amendment that created the redistribution rules in the state, the Ohio Redistribution Commission was to ensure that election results were taken into account when developing cards. Namely, section 6 of the constitutional amendment states that the proportion of voters in a district must “closely match the preferences of voters in Ohio statewide.”
This section was debated during the legislative redistribution process, with Huffman questioning the definition of “results” at ORC meetings. He argued that “results” could mean the overall election results (is Ohio a “red” state or a “blue state”), or the individual results of each district.
When the cards were passed without bipartisan support, the Republican majority on the commission was required by law to create a statement explaining “what the commission determined to be the preferences of Ohio voters across the country.” Status ”, as well as the calculations.
The statement was released shortly after the cards were adopted, and it said the commission had examined “the results of partisan general elections state and federal government over the past ten years.” , of which there were 16.
“By examining the results of each of these elections, the commission determined that the Republican candidates won 13 of the 16 of those elections, which resulted in a statewide proportion of voters in favor of the Republican candidates. statewide of 81% and a statewide pro-democracy proportion of voters at the state level. candidates, ”the statement said.
If we count the number of individual votes cast in each election, Republicans represent on average only 54% of the vote.
“Thus, the proportion of voters in favor of Republican candidates statewide is between 54% and 81%,” according to the commission’s statement.
In the final General Assembly maps, majority members of the committee decided that 64% of districts would be in favor of Republicans and about 35% would be in favor of Democrats.
While Republicans and Ohio Democrats disagree on whether or not the state is gerrymander, they both felt it was important to mention this when the latest Four years was adopted.
Senate Speaker Matt Huffman has denied that the new maps, created under his leadership, seek to further gerrymander the state, even criticizing “special interest groups” for promoting a focus on minority populations known as “equity in society.” representation ”as a new way of dividing the state. in a partisan way.
“So-called equity of representation is just another way to describe gerrymandering, and these groups need to remember that districts are won with quality candidates, issues and campaigns, not predetermined outcomes. based on a false premise of letting the vested interests of Washington, DC, define what is right, ”Huffman said in a statement after the cards were approved early Thursday morning.
Advocacy groups like the Ohio ACLU and All on the Line say fairness in representation is not just a constitutional requirement, as redistribution must follow federal laws such as the Human Rights Act. of voting, but also a major problem that the process had before.
They explained this using the terms “packaging” and “cracking”.
“Packing” refers to the over-saturation of a particular district with a minority group to reduce the number of districts containing minority populations. “Cracking” refers to the division of populations into different constituencies, which leads to “diluted” voting power.
All of this will be factored in as the cards move forward, and especially if they make their way to the courts, as leaders on both sides of the issue expect.
Gerrymandering and representation will return as the redistribution continues at the federal level.
Huffman has previously said the first deadline at the end of September would likely pass without the Legislature deciding on Congress’ cards, and if the Legislature fails to come to a deal, the committee could get another chance on the cards, with a delay. October deadline for the bipartite agreement.
If, as happened with legislative cards, no bipartisan deal happens by Halloween, the process goes back to the legislature. Cards for congressional districts could then also be on a four-year cycle if the two parties cannot agree, and the Republican majority passes cards along party lines.
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