What’s perfectly clear is that the district lines of gerrymandered Ohio are absurd. What’s less clear is what’s to be done about that.
Business Insider has made a fun game out of this sad problem throughout America: Gerrymandered U.S. Congressional District or Rorschach Inkblot?
Here in Athens, Ohio, we are represented by U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers in Ohio’s Fighting Fifteenth, which steamrolls from the foothills of Appalachia over to the cornlands of Clinton County before snaking through portions of the city of Columbus to claw its way into Upper Arlington, the hometown of Mr. Stivers.
If Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper is doing due diligence to bring to the party’s executive committee before they decide whether to endorse the ballot proposal for a new redistricting process in Ohio, all the better for it.
Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper told The Associated Press the party wants assurances the issue achieves its intended consequences and is still studying data modeling to determine how it will affect party breakdowns in future legislative elections.
Achieving intended consequences is an admirable concern, and it’s right to be cautious. I can’t bring myself to trust Republican Matt Huffman as far as I could throw him. And as Principal Ed Rooney’s beleaguered secretary Grace observed, with my bad knee I shouldn’t be throwing anybody.
The new plan establishes a seven-member commission made up of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four legislative appointees to draw the lines. Two minority-party votes would be needed to adopt a 10-year legislative map. Without them, the majority could draw only a short-term map.
Short-term maps ad infinitum?
This is the first time since Ohio’s Constitution was revised in the 1960s that a bipartisan solution on redistricting has been developed. Three other past attempts at redistricting reform failed overwhelmingly at the ballot.
“As Vern and I have commented to each other throughout this process, this isn’t going to pass unless both parties are endorsing this, unless both sides are in favor of this,” Huffman said. “That’s why it was critical that this went through the legislative process the way it did, and we passed it really overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate.”
And even so, why am I so instinctually wary?
The National Committee for Effective Congress, or NCEC, is among entities whose modeling work is raising concerns among some Democrats…
Pepper said Wednesday that multiple data models are being reviewed, not just NCEC’s. He said the endorsement process is transparent.
“This debate will happen in public; we are a small ‘d’ democratic party,” he said. “There are a lot of strong opinions on this. There are people who are very excited about it, and there are people who have concerns.”
No matter how this proposal shakes out, the thing all capital-D Democrats should recognize is that when it comes to the next round of redistricting, nothing is more important than the statewide office elections of 2018.
And beyond that, if Democrats can win a majority of offices on the apportionment board, it would be a nice opportunity to show the contrast between the parties by drawing fair, compact, and competitive districts, as opposed to the travesty Republicans unleashed upon the electoral process with their hands on the pencil.
David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.