"This plan is the most grotesque partisan gerrymander that I, as a political scientist, have ever seen," said Professor Richard Gunther of Ohio State University. Gunther was speaking of Ohio's new congressional district map, created by Republican state officials to give their party 75% of the congressional seats, while getting about 50% of the vote. To do that, Republicans drew gerrymanders to pack Democrats into four districts, and split the remaining Democrats into twelve districts drawn to give Republicans a large majority. An example of a Republican-majority gerrymander is the 4th district shown above. This gerrymander neutralizes Democrats in Elyria and Oberlin with Republican-leaning rural counties in a 250-mile-long course to Lima, by way of Tiffin, Bucyrus, Urbana and Wapakoneta. An example of a Democrat-packed gerrymander is the 9th district, shown here:
This gerrymander snakes for 115 miles along the Erie shore swallowing Democrats from Toledo to the west-side of Cleveland, at one point connected only by a beach. The rise of the gerrymander in Ohio can be seen in the series of maps from 1992 through 2012. In 2000 Republicans gained control of both houses of the legislature and the governorship -- the three state offices that make the congressional district map. Comparing the Republican's 2002 map with the prior, 1992 map, we can see gerrymanders growing:
In 2010 Republicans again gained control of the three state offices. But these are today's Republicans, abusers of power that turned the U.S. Senate filibuster from exception to routine, and that took the nation to the brink of default. These Republicans stretched the gerrymanders to their grotesque limit, as we have seen in the 4th and 9th districts, and can see in the full 2012 map:
But a citizens' backlash has arisen to fight the grotesque gerrymanders, and two weekends ago turned in petitions that likely have enough valid signatures to place an issue on November's ballot. The issue would, before the 2014 election, tear-up the current map and the political redistricting process. The issue would vest redistricting power in a citizens' committee of 12, with no politicians, lobbyists or big donors allowed, and a make-up of four members from each of the two largest parties, and four members not affiliated with either of those parties. The committee would be tasked to draw districts according to four principles:
- community – keeping counties, townships and cities within one district,
- competitiveness – keeping the lean towards one party in a district to 5% or less,
- representational fairness – keeping the ratio of districts leaning towards a party to that of recent election results, and
- compactness – no leggy, meandering shapes.
These four principles would serve to prevent the safe district that automatically reelects its congressman, and to strengthen democracy. Now let's look at one more map – the winning entry in an Ohio redistricting contest, and an example of the compact, sane districts that could be drawn:
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8:21 PM PT: The Ohio Secretary of State validated enough signatures today, and the anti-gerrymandering issue will go on the November ballot.