COLUMBUS (WKBN) – Gerrymandering of some kind has been going on since America was created — and many forms of gerrymandering are illegal. But the highest court in the land has not ruled on whether gerrymandering can be done on a partisan level.
You can’t gerrymander for racial reasons, giving racial minorities less of a voice at the ballot box. You also cannot change the amount of people in the districts so that one has more than another.
Drawing lines and grouping people based on how they vote is becoming easier to do with the technology that is available.
Every ten years, the country holds a census. Data from that census is used to determine a host of things, including how many legislators are needed at the state and federal levels, as well as who those legislators will represent.
The “who” part of that comes in the form of drawing maps that group people together to create districts. Those maps are drawn the year after the census is taken and are in effect for ten years until the next census is taken and new maps can be drawn.
In Ohio, the political party that is in the majority is in control of how those maps are drawn.
The last time the maps were drawn was 2011 and the majority party has seen nothing but the solidification of its political power in the state ever since.
“The districts are so lopsided that they guarantee which party is going to win,” said Carrie Davis, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters.
Democrat member of the Ohio House of Representatives Kathleen Clyde recently participated in an amicus brief on a Wisconsin lawsuit that will be going before the U.S. Supreme Court in October. The case places partisan gerrymandering directly in front of the justices.
“The system that we have now is one where instead of the voters choosing their politicians, you have the politicians choosing their voters,” Clyde said.
She wasn’t the only Ohio lawmaker to participate in the brief. Several current and former Ohio legislators, including Republican Priscilla Mead, joined her.
Mead served in the legislature for ten years — the first eight as a state representative and the final two as a senator.
She represented the people of western Franklin and Pickaway counties. Mead said her Senate district was heavily gerrymandered.
According to Mead, the voting majority of her district was designed to be Republican but the actual makeup included many other groups, including immigrants who were unable to vote because of a lack of citizenship.
Mead said she found it difficult and frustrating to get legislation passed on their behalf because the Republican leadership at the time did not value what the real majority of her constituents valued.
“Issues that I needed to address were not issues that were high on the priority list for the Republicans,” Mead said.
It is an example of how gerrymandering can actually be detrimental to the constituents of the members of the majority party as well.
Currently, the legislature has super-majorities in both chambers.
According to Mead, the problem is 70 percent of the state’s population is in urban areas and 70 percent of Ohio’s legislators come from rural and suburban parts of the state.
Mead also said the lack of equal representation along partisan lines eliminates the need to have discussions on topics that propel Ohio forward, keeping it a leader in the nation.
Democrats claim that since the political scales have been tilted so heavily, Ohio has experienced the negative repercussions in the area of jobs and education as the state has fallen behind in those areas.
In 2015, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a reform of how the legislative district maps are drawn to eliminate gerrymandering along partisan lines.
However, the maps aren’t going to be drawn again until 2021, after the next census.
In the meantime, elections in Ohio will be held where some outcomes can already be measured.
The accuracy of those measurements will always be uncertain until the votes are cast and counted. But barring significant changes to how voters have traditionally cast their ballots or a drastic change in the voter turnout in those districts, one could rely on past history to give them a good idea of what will happen.
Additionally, some voters have been and will be disenfranchised by the understanding that the election has been rigged to some degree and when that happens, the success of the gerrymandering is solidified.