Comment: Ohio redistricting reform could be a “bait and switch” situation

If your state has congressional districts so jumbled they have nicknames like “The Snake on the Lake” and “The Duck” then you have a problem. You also live in Ohio.

In Ohio, Republicans made the rules and Democrats take whatever falls off the table.

If you’re reading this, you might be living in one of these bizarro-world convention districts.

Ohio 1st Congressional District, held by Republican Steve Chabot for nearly a quarter of a century, was specially drawn up by the Republicans in the Legislature to protect the former Cincinnati City Council.

His home base, his beloved west side of Hamilton County, seemed to be turning blue quickly, and so GOP lawmakers found a narrow land bridge to connect to Warren County, where a pool of Republican voters lies deeper than the Castalia Blue Hole.

Look at the map of the 1st district above. See the little appendix that hangs down from the center of eastern Hamilton County?

That was added to Chabots District – for Lagniappe only – because it happens to include some of Hamilton County’s richest and most republican suburbs. People who routinely donate large dollars to GOP candidates.

If you think this was an accident, I’d like to play a few hands of poker with you.

I like to call it the Steve Chabot Preservation Act of 2011.

The Ohio Congressional District map is a strange, twisted, hot mess that should look very different after the ongoing 2020 census and the congressional district redesign that followed. But thanks to a constitutional amendment passed largely by Ohio voters in 2018 – an amendment that introduces a new process designed to reduce the impact of partisan gerrymandering on redistribution in Congress – the days of lazy tricks are over.

Or are you?

Will this be the end of weird, convoluted districts that are specifically designed to be uncompetitive and go to great lengths to make it as easy as possible for GOP candidates?

Here’s everything you need to know about the Ohio Congressional District map to understand the lazy trick Republicans played on the Democrats when the districts were drawn in 2011.

Actually two things.

First, there are:

In 2018, Republican candidates won about 50% of the vote in congressional elections, but won 75% of the state’s 16 seats.

And secondly:

Since using this map for the first time in 2012, not a single convention district has changed from red to blue or vice versa. It’s the same result every two years: 12 Republicans elected, along with four Democrats.

Well, it was kind of a lazy ploy, but politics can be a pretty lazy profession. The Republicans were in control of the Ohio General Assembly when those districts were drawn and still control the legislature.

Had the Democrats been in control they would have tried to do the same and it would have been incredibly difficult for them to create a 12-4 card.

Ohio is in danger of losing a Congressional seat in the census – not because the population is not growing here, but because it is not growing as fast as it is in the south and west. Florida and Texas will be winners and take places.

The new constitutional amendment will prevent map makers from dividing major cities in the state between two congressional districts – as the city of Cincinnati is now.

In fact, Hamilton County was supposed to be its own congressional district with a few small pieces of Butler County thrown into it.

This will make the Democrats very happy. If Cincinnati does not split, it likely means a Democratic district will be drawn with two Republicans – Chabot and Rep. Brad Wenstrup – now holding seats.

The new 10-year cards must have more mutual support than the past.

A proposed Congressional District map would require 60% and at least half of the votes of each party convention to get approval.

If lawmakers can’t work out a plan that has so much support from both parties, a seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission can pass a majority card that includes two members from each party.

If that doesn’t work, the card goes back to the Ohio General Assembly, where it can be passed with 60% and only a third of the minority party’s vote.

And guess what?

If none of these three pass-through methods work, a majority of the legislature’s votes could pass a four-year pass without any support from either party.

Which sounds to me like we’re back in first place.

Not necessarily, said David Niven, associate professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.

How that process works, Niven said, “depends on whether you view the move towards fairer districts as a sincere attempt at reform or a massive fraud.”

If it got to a point where the majority party could pass its own plan without input from the minority, Niven said, it would likely be a plan that is not as heavily partisan as the map Ohio has today. But he said, “It wouldn’t be the ideal result.”

“The Snake,” “The Duck,” and whatever that monstrosity they created for Chabot nine years ago could potentially live on for two more election cycles.

Reform, huh?

Read more “Politically speaking” here.

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