Voting Crucial For Redistricting Goals

There is a laundry list of reasons why Republican Congressman Jim Jordan is one of the worst that Washington has to offer. He is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, the most far-right group in the House of Representatives — a group that has faced harsh criticism even from within its own party.

Jordan has also recently been accused of ignoring credible allegations of sexual misconduct made against the Ohio State University’s wrestling team’s trainer during the time that Jordan was assistant coach.

The longer Jordan has been in Congress, the clearer his incompetence and negligence have become. He is routinely the target of national jokes and indignation.

He is, unfortunately, also Oberlin’s congressional representative. How did Jordan come to represent Oberlin, one of the most liberal areas in the state? The answer is simple; the solution is anything but. Oberlin voters have had their voice in Congress systematically silenced by gerrymandering, a process in which district lines are strategically drawn every 10 years (coinciding with the Census) to benefit one political party and disadvantage the other.

In Ohio, the scales have clearly been tipped in favor of Republicans. Of the 16 congresspeople from Ohio, 12 are Republican. In a traditional swing state, those numbers just don’t make sense. In the most recent congressional election, Republicans won 58 percent of the overall vote, and yet they hold 75 percent of the available seats.

Obama won Ohio twice. And, even when the state went for Trump in 2016, it was by a 51-43 margin — a far cry from the 75 — 25 congressional split.

Clearly, Ohio Republicans have leveraged the system’s loopholes effectively. Earlier this year, however, voters made it clear that they are fed up with conservatives consistently winning what would otherwise be competitive congressional seats year after year.

A massive statewide effort — fueled in large part by the Ohio League of Women Voters — led to a proposed amendment to the state constitution, which was approved by voters in May 2018. The amendment changed the way that congressional districts are drawn in Ohio, moving towards a more representative system that requires a greater level of approval from the Ohio General Assembly’s minority party.

Under the new redistricting process, which will be tested for the first time in 2021, the state legislature can only adopt a new 10-year map if three-fifths of the entire state legislature votes to approve it, including at least one-half of the minority party’s members.

However, if the legislature can’t reach an agreement — an outcome which, call us pessimistic, seems a little too likely — the decision falls to a seven-member redistricting commission, composed of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and four members of the state legislature, including at least two from the minority party.

If the commission fails to put forward a 10-year map that a majority of its members — including two from the minority party — support, the process returns again to the state legislature. During this second go-round, ratification of any 10-year plan requires three-fifths support from the total assembly, but only one-third support from the minority party.

Finally, if all else fails, a majority of the redistricting commission’s seven members can approve a four-year map without any support from the minority party.

If you’re a little confused by the new system, you’re not alone. The important thing to understand is that the old system — the one that gave Oberlin Jim Jordan — has not been completely eliminated. Rather, it’s just become more difficult, but not impossible, for the seven-member commission to ram through a blatantly gerrymandered map.

It will be important, therefore, for Ohioans who care about fair and proportional congressional districts to follow up on their monumental May victory by electing a governor, state auditor, and secretary of state who are committed to equity in the districting process in the realistic scenario that the responsibility falls on their laps.

Ohio Republicans — who controlled the last three redistricting processes — have shown themselves unwilling to draw districts that are representative of voter desires. It is clear that Mike DeWine, Keith Faber, and Frank LaRose — Republican candidates for governor, state auditor, and secretary of state, respectively — are not the people who will guide our state to a more fair congressional map, and get Oberlin out of Jim Jordan’s district.

Even if for just this reason alone, Oberlin voters should strongly consider supporting Democrats Richard Cordray, Zack Space, and Kathleen Clyde for their respective statewide offices. The Democratic Party has many shortcomings, and these candidates, if elected, will likely show many of the same weaknesses.

It’s also important to remember that those three candidates could help draw district lines that would impact Ohio politics for at least a decade, likely longer. Ohioans won a decisive battle against gerrymandering in May, and should not lose sight of the cause now.

More representative district lines could reasonably shift the balance of power among the Ohio congressional delegation from 12— 4 to 9 — 7, for instance, and those extra three seats really matter.

Balancing the scales towards fairness in Ohio could not only get Oberlin out of Jordan’s district, but would also go a long way towards balancing the scales in Washington. After all, as Ohio goes, so goes the nation.