By J. Collin Marozzi
Graduate Student at the University of Akron, Intern at Common Cause Ohio
Last November the voters of Ohio passed Issue 1, a ballot measure that reformed the way Ohio’s legislative districts are drawn. The goal was to make the mapmaking process fairer and more transparent. Republicans, Democrats, ACLU of Ohio, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Right to Life and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and many more organizations came together to make Ohio elections better. A shocking feat considering the state’s polarized politics!
Yet there is still more to do. Now it’s time to fix the way Ohio’s congressional districts are drawn.
District lines are redrawn every ten years following the census. One look at the current map and you can see why we need to change how maps are created and who creates them.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) released a report Predictable Results shining a spotlight on these manipulated districts and their impact on Ohio elections. The LWVO used the projected partisan index created in 2011 for the Ohio Redistricting Competition to assess the competitiveness of Ohio’s districts. Public records revealed that the 2011 mapmakers used the same partisan index.
Tight races are generally within a five point margin. Of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, only two have a partisan index within a ten-point margin. That means the winners of the other 14 districts were projected to win their election by more than ten percentage points. So much for competitive elections!
The report demonstrates the power of gerrymandering or drawing districts to benefit the party in power. Districts that lean Republicans were won by Republicans and those that lean Democratic were won by Democrats. The partisan makeup of each district correctly predicted the winner of every single congressional race in 2012 and 2014.
We like to think that we have competitive congressional elections, but the district itself can have more to do with who wins an election than the candidate and his/her ideas. This spells trouble for our democracy.
How can the mapmakers justify Ohio’s 6th district that spans 289 miles from Youngstown to Ironton? Or Ohio’s 9th district better known as the “mistake by the lake” which skims along Lake Erie from Toledo to Cleveland. One way - bad politics. This is not right and certainly not good for voters.
How gerrymandering is ruining democracy:
Both political parties engage in winner-take-all mapmaking. Gerrymandering leads to a disproportionate, feckless Congress that does nothing, but spend too much money doing nothing.
There is a silver lining! Issue 1 showed lawmakers that Ohioans are ready for change. Last November the voters of Ohio said business as usual in the Statehouse will not be tolerated anymore. It is time we send that same message to Congress. What’s good for the Statehouse is good for Congress!
Call, write or tweet your state representative and senator. Demand an end to the frivolous party politics that we all loathe.
Lawmakers will not do this themselves. The voters must have their voices heard and the only way to do that is to get involved. Everyone has a stake in the health of our elections and democracy. You can make a difference. Join me in this fight, and together we can make sure our government will once again be of the people, for the people, by the people.
By Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio
All over the state, Ohioans are taking time to reflect on the life and legacy of George Voinovich. A former Cleveland mayor, U.S. Senator and Governor Voinovich is remembered as a selfless public servant.
In 2015, George Voinovich described reform as "long overdue" and joined former Governors Dick Celeste, Ted Strickland and Bob Taft in support of Issue 1 and state legislative redistricting reform.
In January of this year, Voinovich joined the call for fixing congressional map-making:
"Last year, Ohio's voters went to the polls and declared that they were tired of state legislative districts being gerrymandered with only politics in mind. As we wait for the legislature to take up the issue, Ohio's voters can once again take the lead by demanding a fairer process for redistricting Ohio's 16 congressional districts.
I sincerely believe that one of the major problems confronting Congress is the fact that most districts are not balanced because of gerrymandering and therefore make it difficult for the member to compromise. The simplest way to get Washington moving again is to produce balanced congressional districts that force our elected officials to listen to both sides and compromise.”
All reform efforts are built on the leaders who came before us. It's time for us to take the lead calling for congressional redistricting reform. Let Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger know that like former Governor and Senator Voinovich you support congressional redistricting reform.