Voting rights advocates say Ohio congressional card is gerrymandered: NPR

Republican State Senator Rob McColley presents a new map of the Congressional District, drawn by the Republican Senate Caucus.

Andy Chow / Ohio Public Radio

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Andy Chow / Ohio Public Radio

Republican State Senator Rob McColley presents a new map of the Congressional District, drawn by the Republican Senate Caucus.

Andy Chow / Ohio Public Radio

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, has enacted a congressional map that creates 15 new districts in the state, but anti-gerrymandering advocates criticize the map, saying it was drawn to maintain a Republican stronghold in Ohio.

The plan has 12 seats that strongly favor or lean in favor of Republicans. That’s 80% of a state’s districts that voted for former President Donald Trump with 53% of the vote in 2020.

Voter rights groups say Republican lawmakers have gone out of their way to carve the card in a way that gives them an advantage.

“It’s full of weird shapes and wavy lines,” says Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “The cards only look like this if you are trying to get a partisan result rather than fairly representing the voters.”

Republicans defended the districts, saying they kept most of Ohio’s largest cities whole and divided fewer counties than the districts drawn 10 years ago.

There are six ridings where the margin between Republican voters and Democratic voters is less than 10%. But of these six districts, five still lean in favor of the GOP.

“I don’t think we should go into a card making process and say, ‘Okay, we’ve got to have seven that are guaranteed to be a party and eight that are guaranteed to be the other party. said Republican State Senator Rob. McColley. “I don’t think that’s what the voters wanted.”

2018 Ohio Redistribution Reforms

State lawmakers created the map as part of a new process approved by Ohio voters in 2018. The change was part of a move to reform redistribution and prevent gerrymandering. A provision of the state’s constitutional amendment states that leaders cannot draw a card that “unduly favors or disadvantages a political party or its incumbents.”

Democratic state representative Stephanie Howse of Cleveland berated Republicans during a heated debate, saying the card ignored the will of voters.

“That’s not what people voted for in May 2018. They deserve better. We have to do better. And we absolutely have to vote against this mess,” Howse said.

In the same debate, Republican State Representative Bill Seitz of Cincinnati said Ohio has a red tendency and elections depend on any given candidate.

“’Fair’, ladies and gentlemen, is in the eyes of the beholder,” Seitz said. “We have respected the Constitution. We have done our duty. We have listened to the people. Listening to him doesn’t mean agreeing with him. “

The outcome of the new map could have national implications. It takes a state that previously had 12 Republican delegates and four Democratic delegates and potentially tip the balance of power in the United States House of Representatives by eliminating two secure Democratic seats and creating an eventual 13th winnable district for the GOP.

Ohio became the last state to finalize a new map. Democrats in states such as Illinois and Maryland have faced criticism for proposing cards in their party’s favor. But new maps across the country have, so far, resulted in safer neighborhoods for Republicans.

Since the Ohio map did not gain bipartisan support from Democrats, it will only be in place for four years, instead of the usual 10-year period, another provision of the 2018 redistribution reforms.

And the defenders say they don’t come down without a fight.

“This map is unconstitutional because it carves out and carves up communities only to unduly favor a political party,” Miller said.

The National Redistricting Action Fund, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, has filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court, claiming the new card violates the state’s Constitution.

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