Republicans keep gerrymandered cards – after being struck down by court | American News
Hello and Happy Thursday,
When I called Catherine Turcer on Tuesday, she mentioned to me that her daughter had just texted her saying she must feel like she’s living the same day over and over again.
Turcer is the executive director of the Ohio Chapter of Common Cause, a government watchdog group, and one of the most knowledgeable people on redistricting in her state. Earlier in the morning, the Supreme Court of Ohio struck the map of the state’s 15 congressional districts, claiming they were so skewed in favor of Republicans that they violated the state constitution. It was the seventh time this year that the court has struck down a congressional or state legislative map this year (it has struck down the congressional map twice and state legislative districts five times).
Despite those rulings, Republicans have maneuvered to keep congressional and state legislative maps in place for this fall’s election. He set up an extraordinary circumstance in Ohio: Voters will vote for federal and state representation this fall in unconstitutional precincts.
Turcer and I have spoken several times over the past few months as the Ohio saga unfolded, and she’s not someone to sugarcoat things. I was interested in her perspective as someone who was initially optimistic about reforms — she fought to get them through — but saw the reality of how Republicans brazenly ignored them this year.
“It’s incredibly painful to participate in elections that you know are rigged,” she told me. “I encouraged people to see the upcoming elections as important to participate in because if we just walk away we’ll have even worse representation.”
This was not how things were supposed to be.
After extremely aggressive GOP gerrymandering in 2011, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2015 that established new safeguards on the practice of drawing state legislative lines. He let a bipartisan commission of lawmakers control the process, but said he had to follow certain rules, including a requirement that said districts cannot “primarily” favor one political party. In 2018, voters approved a measure that established similar constraints on congressional redistricting.
It was a huge victory for the reformers. Prior to 2015, there had been several statewide referenda to limit partisan gerrymandering and all failed. And while lawmakers still had control over the redistricting process, she believed it could weed out the worst gerrymandering. I covered the 2018 amendment, and I remember there was some reviews at the time if it went far enough to limit lawmakers.
Now Ohio Republicans endorsed this review. In their congressional and state legislative maps, they looked for maps that would give them a huge advantage and enacted their plans along partisan lines. Each time the Supreme Court rejected their efforts, they made only marginal changes and resubmitted the plan. Eventually, they ran out of time, forcing the courts to allow their cards to go into effect this year.
“It could have worked if elected officials had approached it willingly,” she told me, pointing out that lawmakers were responsible for the failure. “I no longer assume anyone’s goodwill…I no longer have faith that elected leaders will do the right thing when it comes time to draw electoral districts.”
Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, tweeted Wednesday what I thought was an insightful analysis of why the cards failed.
More importantly, there was no meaningful “stick” to force Ohio Republicans to draw constitutional maps. Under the constitutional amendment, the Ohio Supreme Court can only send lawmakers back to the drawing board, not draw a map of it. And the only “punishment” lawmakers face for passing a map along partisan lines is that it won’t be in effect for an entire decade, a consequence that clearly didn’t scare Republican lawmakers.
“We should have fought harder to let the Ohio redistricting do the mapping,” Turcer told me. “It seems really clear that giving the Supreme Court of Ohio the stick, shall we say, not just the carrot, could have made a huge difference.”
After watching the reforms fail, Turcer said she expects a push to create an independent redistricting commission in Ohio, something the Ohio Supreme Court chief justice voted the clincher. in all cases of redistricting, encouraged.
“It certainly didn’t work out as it should. Cartographers are just drunk on power. And you take the keys away from the drunks,” she said. Obviously, the next step is an independent and isolated commission.
The Trump administration has sought to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census as part of an effort to change the way congressional seats are allocated
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to reform the electoral count law.