On October 7, 2016, David Daley, the author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, reviewed his book about how the political strategies of Election 2010 set the stage for more GOP-dominated state legislatures. These legislatures then created the very targeted 2011 congressional gerrymander.
“The argument in this book is that the elections have indeed been rigged,” said Daley. “But in a very different way than what Donald Trump is talking about. They were rigged in an entirely legal fashion.”
Daley described gerrymandering as one of the oldest political tricks in the books and congressional races as uncompetitive.
Predictable Results: A Report from the League of Women Voters of Ohio Comparing 2011 Gerrymandering to the 2012 and 2014 Election Results found that the partisan makeup of congressional districts perfectly predicted the political party of the winner. Congressional districts that lean Republican were won by the Republican candidate in every single congressional race in both 2012 and 2014. Those congressional districts that lean Democratic were won by Democrats every single time.
And it doesn’t look like this year’s election will be any different. In September, the City Club of Cleveland announced that it was likely to cut back on debates because the congressional races are uncompetitive. The City Club reconsidered and is holding congressional debates on October 17, but incumbents have declined to participate.
Daley described the problem as cutting to the heart of representative democracy. He went on to elaborate, “It’s not a coincidence; it’s not a mistake. It’s because of the gerrymander, an ancient political trick but one which savvy Republicans strategists, bankrolled by dark money and aided by sophisticated data-mapping techniques, reinvented in 2010 and 2011 in thoroughly modern and unique new ways. Our democracy has been rewired at its most basic level. The lines or the political districts go long way to explain why our politics are so extreme and so broken.”
Republican strategist Chris Jankowski and his organization Republican State Leadership Committee targeted 2010 Statehouse races in swing states with the intention of influencing the mapmaking process in 2011. This REDMAP effort was unprecedented and continue to impact state legislative and congressional elections.
In 2010, the Democrats controlled the Ohio House of Representatives; the Republicans the Ohio Senate. In Ohio, $1 million was spent as part of the REDMAP strategy to influence the outcome of six Statehouse races. These efforts at least in part led to Republican control of both houses of the state legislature for the 2011 redistricting. The Ohio House and Senate have been under GOP-control since the 2010 election.
Daley drew attention to the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting’s Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report: The Elephant in the Room and a few email exchanges about making state legislative districts.
Troy Judy, then Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder's chief of staff, wrote September 16, 2011:
“Ray [DiRossi] was running a quick analysis of in-kind contributions made to house races over the last decade and thought you'd find it interesting which districts were on top.”
Mapmaker and consultant Ray DiRossi wrote back:
“…But we have made significant improvements to many HDs [House districts] on this list. Hopefully saving millions over the coming years.”
Mapmaker and consultant Heather Mann (Blessing) added to the email chain:
"It's 1AM—go to bed you political junkies.”
Less competitive Ohio House districts require fewer campaign donations — potentially saving the Ohio Republican Party millions of dollars.
Like Congress, the partisan makeup of the Ohio Senate perfectly predicted the winner’s political party in 2012 and 2014. While not perfect, the candidate of the political party favored in 97 out of 99 Ohio House districts in 2012 and 96 out of 99 in 2014 won. Ohio Senate and House district lines continue to be the best election indicator.
This event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. A special thank you to Co-President Susan Murnane.
By Catherine Turcer, policy analyst for Common Cause Ohio