Andy Chow/Ohio Public Radio
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, has signed a congressional map creating 15 new districts in the state, but anti-Gerrymandering proponents are rejecting the map, saying it was drawn to preserve a Republican stronghold in Ohio.
The plan has 12 seats that either strongly favor or lean in favor of Republicans. That’s 80% of the districts in a state that voted for former President Donald Trump with 53% of the vote in 2020.
Voter rights groups say Republican lawmakers have done their best to make the card so that they have an advantage.
“It’s full of weird shapes and squiggly lines,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “Maps don’t look like this unless you’re trying to get a partisan outcome rather than representing voters fairly.”
Republicans defended the districts, saying they keep most of Ohio’s largest cities whole and split fewer counties than the districts drawn 10 years ago.
There are six counties where the margin between Republican voters and Democratic voters is less than 10%. But of those six districts, five still lean in favor of the GOP.
“I don’t think we should go into a card process and say, ‘Okay, we need to have seven guaranteed to be one party and eight guaranteed to be the other,'” Republican Senator Rob said. McColley. “I don’t think the voters wanted that.”
Ohio Reclassifications in 2018
State lawmakers created the map under a new process approved by Ohio voters in 2018. The change was part of a move to reform the reclassification and avoid gerrymandering. Under a provision in the state constitutional amendment, leaders are not allowed to sign a card that “unjustly favors or disapproves of a political party or its incumbents.”
Cleveland State Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse chided Republicans in a heated floor debate, saying this map ignores the will of voters.
“That’s not what people voted for in May 2018. They deserve better. We need to do better. And we absolutely need to vote this crap out,” Howse said.
In the same debate, Republican State Representative Bill Seitz of Cincinnati said Ohio is turning red and that elections depend on a particular candidate.
“‘Fair’, ladies and gentlemen, is in the eyes of the beholder,” Seitz said. “We have followed the Constitution. We have done our duty. We have listened to the people. Listening to them does not mean we agree with them.”
The result of the new map may have national implications. It will take a state that previously had 12 Republican and four Democratic delegates and could potentially overturn power in the US House of Representatives by eliminating two secure Democratic seats and creating a possible 13th district winable for the GOP.
Ohio has become the last state to finalize a new map. Democrats in states like Illinois and Maryland have been criticized for proposing cards favorable to their party. But the new maps across the country have so far resulted in safer districts for Republicans.
Since the Ohio map did not receive bipartisan support from Democrats, it will be in effect for only four years, rather than the regular 10-year period, another provision of the 2018 reclassification reforms.
And proponents say they will not go down without a fight.
“This map is unconstitutional because it bisects and cuts communities into pieces just to unfairly favor one political party,” Miller said.
The National Redistricting Action Fund, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, has filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court, saying the new map violates the state’s constitution.