Ohio Fights Grotesque Gerrymanders

“This plan is the most grotesque partisan gerrymander that I, as a political scientist, have ever seen,” said Professor Richard Gunther of Ohio State University. Gunther was speaking of Ohio’s new congressional district map, created by Republican state officials to give their party 75% of the congressional seats*, while getting about 50% of the vote. To do that, Republicans drew gerrymanders to pack Democrats into four districts, and split the remaining Democrats into twelve districts drawn to give Republicans a large majority. An example of a Republican-majority gerrymander is the 4th district shown above. This gerrymander neutralizes Democrats in Elyria and Oberlin with Republican-leaning rural counties in a 250-mile-long course to Lima, by way of Tiffin, Bucyrus, Urbana and Wapakoneta. An example of a Democrat-packed gerrymander is the 9th district, shown here:

Ohio Gerrymander #9

This gerrymander snakes for 115 miles along the Erie shore swallowing Democrats from Toledo to the west-side of Cleveland, at one point connected only by a beach. The rise of the gerrymander in Ohio can be seen in the series of maps from 1992 through 2012. In 2000 Republicans gained control of both houses of the legislature and the governorship — the three state offices that make the congressional district map. Comparing the Republican’s 2002 map with the prior, 1992 map, we can see gerrymanders growing:

Ohio 1992 & 2002 Congressional Maps

In 2010 Republicans again gained control of the three state offices. But these are today’s Republicans, abusers of power* that turned the U.S. Senate filibuster from exception to routine, and that took the nation to the brink of default*. These Republicans stretched the gerrymanders to their grotesque limit, as we have seen in the 4th and 9th districts, and can see in the full 2012 map:

Ohio 2012-2020 Congressional Map – In the Grip of Gerrymanders

But a citizens’ backlash has arisen to fight the grotesque gerrymanders, and two weekends ago turned in petitions that likely have enough valid signatures to place an issue on November’s ballot. The issue would, before the 2014 election, tear-up the current map and the political redistricting process. The issue would vest redistricting power in a citizens’ committee of 12, with no politicians, lobbyists or big donors allowed, and a make-up of four members from each of the two largest parties, and four members not affiliated with either of those parties. The committee would be tasked to draw districts according to four principles:

  • community – keeping counties, townships and cities within one district,
  • competitiveness – keeping the lean towards one party in a district to 5% or less,
  • representational fairness – keeping the ratio of districts leaning towards a party to that of recent election results, and
  • compactness – no leggy, meandering shapes.

These four principles would serve to prevent the safe district that automatically reelects its congressman, and to strengthen democracy. Now let’s look at one more map – the winning entry in an Ohio redistricting contest, and an example of the compact, sane districts that could be drawn:

Winning map in Ohio congressional redistricting contest by Mike Fortner


The original gerrymander drawn in 1812 by Elkanah Tisdale. Imagine what an artist like Mr. Tisdale could do with today’s Ohio map.

UPDATE 2012-08-06 11:30 PM: The Ohio Secretary of State validated enough signatures today, and the anti-gerrymandering issue will go on the November ballot.

Sources and Notes

said Professor Richard Gunther “Professor: New Ohio Congressional district lines are ‘grotesque’” By Andi Hendrickson; The Lantern; October 3, 2011

Ohio’s new congressional district map “Ohio congressional district map 2012: find your district” By Rich Exner; The Plain Dealer; December 15, 2011

75% of the congressional seats “Op Ed: With a little thought, it’s obvious these things make no sense” by Joe Hallett; The Columbus Dispatch; 01/29/2012

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester told Politico last week that he thought Republicans had gerrymandered enough congressional districts around the country to retain control of the House through 2020.

Certainly Boehner and fellow GOP map-makers did their part in Ohio. Of the 16 new districts they drew, 12 are so ironclad Republican that even Mo, Larry or Curly could win with an R behind his name. …

rise of the gerrymander “Ohio GOP made 2002 congressional redistricting work to its advantage through 2010 election” By Rich Exner; The Plain Dealer; November 16, 2010

abusers of power “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” By Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein; April 27, 2012

… The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.

brink of default “United States of America Long-Term Rating Lowered To ‘AA+’ Due To Political Risks, Rising Debt Burden; Outlook Negative” – Standard and Poor’s; 05-Aug-2011

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as
America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective,
and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt
ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in
the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our
view, the differences between political parties have proven to be
extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting
agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program
that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently.

citizens’ backlash “Redistricting plan will be on ballot for Ohio voters, group says” By Marc Kovac; Record Courier Capital Bureau; July 31, 2012

The issue Summary of the Proposed Amendment – Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission Amendment

one more map Draw the Line Ohio – Congressional Competition Winners

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By Quinn Hungeski, TheParagraph.com, Copyright (CC BY-ND) 2012

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11 years ago

Wow. So much political maneuvering goes on that the average citizen, being busy with the business of life, would never know about.

Though it often depresses me to read it, I am grateful to people like QH of The Paragraph for their alert attention and their scholarly reporting. I particularly appreciate that QH bases all of his reports on documented facts rather than on prejudice and partisanship.

Too many folks today act as if they think truth is irrelevant.

11 years ago

P.S. to my previous comment. As much as the solid research, the humor is much appreciated, too. Love the drawing!

richard huddleston
richard huddleston
5 years ago

a it may look like geryamndering but maybe itd the only way to make thedistricts fare poulations and voter prefferences are not spread out equally