Opinion: Ohio Senate Gerrymandering districts


Redistricting – Image via UglyGerry

Chloe Kozal and Chloe Kozal

Ohio Senate Republicans’ plans for state redistricting announced on Sept. 9 are starting to look like the dictionary definition of gerrymandering. According to Merriam-Webster, this is a “governmental practice of dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections.”

Some conservatives have argued that a Republican-leaning district map makes sense because a majority of Ohio voters are Republican. In contrast, according to the Associated Press, “Ohio voters live in some of the highest gerrymandered districts in the nation,” which led to Democrats representing only seven out of Ohio’s 88 counties. Notably, those seven Democrat-led counties have a majority of Ohio’s population.

According to NPR, a federal court ruled that Ohio’s current congressional district map was “unconstitutionally partisan and gerrymandered,” designed to keep incumbents in power and Republican majority. With the same political party redrawing the map and many incumbents still in the same position since the last redrawing in 2011, it is highly unlikely that Ohio’s new district map will be more bipartisan than the last one.

Five Ohio districts are so ridiculously drawn and gerrymandered that they have been spoofed as part of the “Ugly Gerry” font. One of my favorite satirical graphic design pieces, “Ugly Gerry” is a font designed to show how gerrymandering’s illogical shapes can lead to letter formations out of districts. Distinctly, Ohio has the most districts represented in the gerrymandered font.

Simply put, because of gerrymandering, the proposed redistricting map would allow Republicans to retain a highly undemocratic veto-proof supermajority in Ohio. As reported by The Columbus Dispatch and Dave’s Redistricting Map, the proposed map would also give a 3-seat gain in the Ohio House of Representatives, further tipping the scales for a larger Republican supermajority in the state legislature.

Ohio Democrats and Republicans have debated over the new map ignoring racial demographics in Ohio. Ohio Republicans like Senate Majority leader Matt Huffman and the State Financial Director Ray DiRossi purportedly did not consider racial demographics of constituents in districts when redrawing the map because it is unconstitutional. However, not considering racial demographics as part of the whole picture whilst redistricting could lead to underrepresentation of Ohioans of color and violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The redistricted map is a cause for concern as Ohio constituents have had little to no say in the process. With the map only being released on Sept. 9 and voter opinion town halls beginning on Sept. 1 without access to the map. How can the new map represent Ohioans without their opinions being taken into account?

To me, these facts all reflect Ohio potentially following the alarming trend of voter suppression being enacted all over the United States. While redistricting is not like the over 250 laws proposed in over 43 states to restrict voting, it can still harm Ohioans’ right to vote and their representation in state and federal government over the next four to ten years.