We're taking a look at the impact of Republican gerrymanders on the 2016 congressional elections. Read why in our introductory post, and click here for the full series.
Republicans ruthlessly gerrymandered Ohio to deliver themselves a 12-to-4 majority in the congressional delegation in the last three election cycles, even when President Obama won the state by 3 points in 2012. While Ohio was a disaster for Democrats in 2016, Donald Trump’s 52-44 margin in no way merits Republicans taking 75 percent of House seats. Unlike the actual map, our nonpartisan proposal shown above goes to great lengths to preserve the cores of major cities (click here for a larger version). Our map saw Hillary Clinton win six districts and President Obama eight out of 16 instead of the mere four that both won in reality.
Clinton carried the Cincinnati-based 1st District by a hefty 57-39 instead of losing it by 51-45 under the existing gerrymander. Republican Rep. Steve Chabot likely would have drawn a much stronger challenger and lost. On the other hand, Clinton just barely carried the Toledo-based 5th District 47.4-46.9. However, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur is a very entrenched 17-term incumbent, plus Obama carried the district by 58-41 in 2012. Since hardly any incumbents lost a seat that their party’s presidential nominee carried, Kaptur probably would have prevailed. Current 5th District Republican Rep. Bob Latta might have run in the more Republican 16th District or lost the 5th had these lines been in place in 2012.
Western Cleveland would get an entirely new 9th District that backed Clinton 52-44 and is essentially the same district that former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich easily held before it was eliminated in redistricting in 2012. Similarly, the Akron area gets an almost entirely new 13th District that would have strongly resembled the one that former Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton held down prior to redistricting. Our 13th supported Clinton 50-46 and Obama 56-43, meaning a Democrat such as Sutton likely would have been favored in 2016.
Unfortunately, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan would find himself thrown into the same 14th District as Republican Rep. David Joyce in a seat that combines Youngstown with Cleveland’s eastern suburbs and exurbs. Our 14th strongly supported Obama 57-42, yet backed Trump 52-44, just like his statewide margin. Ryan is an entrenched longtime incumbent in Youngstown who ran far ahead of Clinton’s weak numbers in his actual district. However, there’s no guarantee that he would have prevailed in this redrawn version, particularly if he were running against a fellow incumbent.
Overall, that means gerrymandering likely netted Republicans an additional two or three seats in Ohio. Fortunately, Democrats could help make a nonpartisan map like our proposal a reality next decade by attempting to establish an independent redistricting commission via ballot initiative, which some other states have already done.