Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

90. Gerrymandering

Ohio-12 Gerrymandering

Results of Ohio 12th District special election Aug. 7, 2018. The New York Times

It is 90 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election, which includes many state offices as well.

Many have been watching the 12th congressional district in Ohio, where Tuesday Democrats were hoping to flip yet another House seat.

“Hope” is an appropriate word because the district has been solidly Republican for some time; it’s former representative, Pat Tiberi, has gotten about two-thirds of the votes the past three elections. Donald Trump carried this district by 11 points in 2016. The Democratic nominee was Danny O’Connor, whose total political experience is two years as a county recorder, whatever that is. The Republican nominee was Troy Balderson, an established politician, a member of the Ohio Senate, endorsed by Tiberi, endorsed by Gov. John Kasich, endorsed even by Trump.

Easy-peasy for the Republicans, right?

Yes and no. Or, maybe I should say “no and yes.”

As the Blue Wave has continued to gain strength, as more light has been cast on the Republicans’ lack of compassion about our healthcare, about all our money trickling up to the top 1 percent, about suffering people anywhere but particularly poor people, about the health of our planet, etc. And as so many of them have lined up to accept Trump’s most outrageous lies. And as many have seemingly fallen into a goose-stepping line to aid and abet Putin’s forays into our government. Well, because of that, Democrats have been making inroads.

The question would be rather they would be able to overcome such a strong Republican seat in Ohio-12.

That’s where the “yes” comes into play for Republicans and that leads us into a little discussion about gerrymandering.

Look at the New York Times graphic above. The map is almost all red (Balderson) with only one partial county blue (O’Connor). That is an almost perfect representation of how gerrymandering works. You would think Balderson won by a knockout, but no, he got only 50.2 percent of the vote to O’Connor’s 49.3 percent with 0.6 percent going to a Green Party ticket that apparently is still trying to help Republicans continue to demolish the Green’s platform. (Third-party candidates is another column, the numbers total to 100.1 percent obviously due to rounding, and these number can change as votes are canvassed and maybe even by a recount.)

Why is the vote so close when the map is so red?

That little blue area in northern Columbus was cleverly crafted by the Republican legislature in 2011.

There are three congressional districts in Franklin County. District 3 is totally within the county and currently has a Democratic representative who retained her seat in 2016 by getting 68.6 percent of the vote – more than 100,000 more – over her Republican foe.

District 15 is another district that covers part of Franklin County and then sprawls out through several other counties to bring in enough Republicans to offset the Democrats from the city.

You see, it would have been fairly simple to have two districts cover Franklin County, plus or minus some territory, but they would have both almost surely been Democratic. So, the legislature gets out its Etch-A-Sketch to draw the boundary and they’re able to minimize the power of Democrats.

Gerrymandering is an ancient trick (the term dates from 1812) and it has played a big hand as many Republican-dominated state houses have drawn districts to build up a large advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Is this right? Is it a violation of the one man-one vote principle? Why should you care?

Look at it this way. Even if the Russians helped Trump get votes, Hillary Clinton still outpolled him by more than 2.8 million. However (and we know people voting for one party for president won’t always vote for that party in congressional elections), there were enough Republicans elected to the House that we have seen absolutely nothing from them in form of oversight of the president, up to and including impeachment.

So, yes, if you care about pulling this nation out of the vortex into which it’s been cast, you need to make sure you’re registered to vote and then get out there and actually vote. For Democrats in the House because they must bring impeachment charges, for Democrats in the Senate for they would try the president, for Democrats in state legislatures because they can redraw crooked district lines, and for Democrats in other state offices because they have influence over what the legislature can do and so much more.

Make sure you’re registered to vote.

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