Redistricting in Ohio leads to Accusations of Gerrymandering

The new districts will make a massive impact in determining which party will win districts and seats in the House of Representatives. Source: Joshua Rothaas (via Wikimedia Commons)

By Elie Gould | Contributor

Districting lines are being redrawn across the US. Many states have come out with districts that greatly benefit Republican representatives, due to the Republican Party gaining control of many states’ redistricting processes in the 2020 US election.

One of the states where this impact has been most felt is Ohio. The Ohio Redistricting Committee approved the new state district map with a vote of 5-2; the two Democratic members of the commission, Representative Sykes and Senator Sykes, dissenting. 

The new districts will make a massive impact in determining which party will win districts and seats in the House of Representatives for at least the next six years. Since the Republican party needs to win back a mere five seats to secure a majority from the Democrats, this could have significant impact in the 2022 midterm elections.

America has a history of gerrymandering its districts, a process where district borders are shaped so as to benefit a particular party. From the first district to be gerrymandered, ‘the salamander’ to the bizarrely shaped ear-muff district, it has long been an undemocratic tool used by major political parties to create less democratic results for political gain. 

The impact of an undemocratic voting system is ultimately disenfranchising the voter base; as people feel like their voices and concerns are heard less and less, they may begin to lose interest in exercising their democratic right.

Voting turnout in midterm elections has seen a slight overall decrease over the past ten years. The 2018 Midterms was the first election with a 50% turnout rate since 1914. However, many could argue that this has less to do with the system becoming more democratic than with a vote of party allegiance or defiance against the then President Donald Trump.

In order to buck voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering, many Ohio residents have taken to their local Political Action Committees to campaign for a fairer system of redistricting. Change managed to come, with two amendments to the redistricting system being passed. 

The first ammendment came in 2015, reducing the duration of redistricting from ten to four years. It also created the Ohio Redistricting Commission (ORC), the seven members of which would seek to encourage bipartisanship while drawing up new district maps. 

The second was voted on in 2018. This gave the Ohio General Assembly further access to mapping congressional districts. Through this amendment, a proposed map would need at least 60% of legislators to support it, with a minimum of half the minority party supporting it as well. A failure to achieve this would then relay the decision over to the ORC in hopes of achieving a bipartisan outcome. 

Despite the best efforts and hopes of the voting public of Ohio, attempts to make the process of redistricting bipartisan have fallen upon deaf ears. The Republican dominated ORC passed these latest redistricting maps despite objections from the commission’s two Democrat Party members. 

This process may set a worrying precedent for the future. Despite the Republican vote being approximately 54% in favour of Republicans, the new benchmarks are set so high in favour of the GOP as they have won 13 of 16 legislative seats in the recent elections. By this logic, New York could see fit to redistrict their state so that Democrats are favoured in 100% of districts, as no Republican has won a statewide race since 2002. 

This kind of redistricting process has been critised as undemocratic for all sides of the political section. In a system already called undemocratic by some for its voting system and the Electoral College, districting victories for the political party in power further undermine democracy for the general electorate in America.

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