Mike DeWine Endorses Congress Cards That Do Not Meet His Own Expectations
Mike DeWine echoed the talking points. The governor did so by signing a law last weekend creating new American House districts across Ohio. He applauded the card for adding competitiveness and keeping communities whole. It was the best of the proposals put forward, he argued.
His words followed the script of those who designed the districts, fellow Republican leaders of the Legislature who expressed pride in their work, with one even calling the map “truly historic.” To the eye, the map looks nicer than the extreme gerrymandering that has taken place over the past decade.
There are no snakes along the lake or narrow borders running Interstate 77 as part of the Cleveland and Akron combination, bringing African-American voters into one district with clear advantage. and surrounding Republicans.
At the same time, appearances are deceptive in this case, just as a group of prominent researchers and political scientists warned in their friend of the court brief filed three years ago in a case before the Supreme Court of the States- United. The brief explained how increasingly sophisticated software and data allow political agents to cover up their hyper-partisan card design.
That’s the dynamic at work in the new Ohio map. Yet telltale indicators are still there, for example, in that eastern Summit County finger attached to a fist made from Stark, Wayne, Ashland and part of Holmes County. Part of Cincinnati closely follows all of rural Warren County.
Also consider the district that stretches west from Lorain County to the border with Indiana.
Finally, there are the partisan leanings of neighborhoods.
In May 2018, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a new redistribution process. They responded, in part, to the stagnant results, regardless of the political winds, Republicans with a 12-seat lockdown, Democrats with four. Republicans captured those three-quarters, although they typically won around 54% of the vote. So voters approved more than things like transparency and compactness.
They adopted language telling lawmakers that they “must not adopt a plan that unduly favors or disadvantages a political party or its incumbents.”
Does the new card pass the test as Ohio drops from 16 House seats to 15 due to its low population growth?
Six districts have a strong Republican lean. Two are also pro-Democrats. This breakdown, in particular, reflects the current 3-to-1 split. Republicans suggest that the remaining seven seats are up for grabs. Yet their party has a distinct competitive advantage in almost all, defined as a gap of up to eight percentage points. The 13th arrondissement, including Akron, is almost evenly divided. Experience teaches that Republicans could easily grab six of the seven, or even sweep the whole picture.
This is how Democrats complain about a 13-2 result. What if the result is 12-3? Or sort of 11-4? Or 10-5? Republicans would still control no less than two-thirds of the seats, a share significantly higher than their recent portion of the vote.
In other words, the card unduly favors Republicans. It’s a far cry from how Ohioans voted.
The idea is not to match the 54-46 division, yielding a certain 8-7 result. Rather, percentages of the vote are guides, a way to keep cartographers in touch with voters’ views, enabling results that reflect fluctuations in party fortunes.
Such an approach requires hard work of compromise, with both parties at the table resolving their differences, practicing restraint in the broader interest of the state. Too much to wait? It seems so. Republicans unveiled their final card on Monday, November 15. On Thursday, the Senate and the House had given their approval, with the governor adding his signature on Saturday, November 20.
The rush did not leave enough time for analysis and commentary, let alone real public hearings. After the daring in the earlier design of state legislative districts, the governor and others indicated that more needs to be done with the redistribution of Congress. The Republicans have hardly tried, although they are well positioned to make the opening, holding all the cards with their massive majorities and gerrymander.
The governor’s own words show how his party failed the test. When running for office in 2018, he told the Cincinnati Enquirer: âThe rules are pretty clear – voters have said the redistribution process should be done in a bipartisan fashion, and when I am governor, one would expect what the new cards honor the wishes of the voters.
So this process has been dishonorable, prompting critics to challenge in court and perhaps hold a referendum.
Voters wanted two-party politics to result in a map that would apply to the traditional decade. Instead, Republicans produced a four-year card, seeing an advantage in something originally designed as a tool to deter partisan excesses. They claim to have approved a competitive and constitutional map. The problem is, they’re hard to believe. They were so dishonest in the process.
Douglas is a retired editor of the editorial page of the Beacon Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected]