Democratic voters in Ohio are challenging the state’s re-drawing of 16 House of Representatives districts saying that they were unfairly re-drawn to give advantage to Republicans. The lawsuit against the redrawn maps also says that they were designed unfairly to give advantage to Republicans, a process known also as gerrymandering.
The current spat began in 2011 when Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a Republican sponsored bill into law that re-drew 16 of Ohio’s House of Representatives seats. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on May 22 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representing the Democratic Party’s argument. The official title for the court case is, A. Phillip Randolph Institute v Kasich and could potentially make it’s way all the way up to the Supreme Court.
The case will have important ramifications in upcoming elections as Ohio, a key battleground state that has major influence upon the American political landscape, especially when it comes to Presidential elections.
“This 12-4 map prevents large portions of Ohio’s voting population from ever having their votes meaningfully deployed to count, much less see their democratic will reflected, in their congressional delegation,” a statement filed by the ACLU read. Allegations in the lawsuit say that Republicans are practicing what is known as “packing”, which is a means by which a party re-draws a map to unfairly give an advantage to one side over the other.
The strategy of “packing” is where the redistricting is used to redraw different district lines to coincide lump like-minded voters together in ways that offer political advantage. The other complementary tactic that is used in political mapping is known as “cracking.” Cracking is defined as a process involved in spreading voters of a particular type among many districts in order to dilute their influence and deny them a sufficiently large voting bloc in any particular district.
Many Democrats argue that the shape the newly redrawn maps doesn’t give the opposing voter enough influence on the election by setting up a system where their vote doesn’t count as much as Republicans. “Both tactics force the voter of those from the opposing party to be used inefficiently, by placing the opposing party’s voters in districts where their votes will not have any impact on the outcome,” the statement continued.
Ohio is currently ruled under what is known as a Trifecta which means one party (the Republicans) control all three branches of Government: the Governorship, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Republicans won the House of Representatives in the last election 66 to 33, and in the Senate, the Republicans increased their advantage in 2016 from 24 to 9.
Ohio has elections in 2018 in both the House of Representatives and also the Senate, however it is highly unlikely that a ruling on this case will be determined in time to have a significant impact on the elections. But on Tuesday, the U.S Supreme Court made headlines by ruling against the lawsuits that would have blocked new district maps in Wisconsin and Maryland – sending a strong message likely to set the tone for further cases such as in Ohio. The case in Wisconsin was brought by a group of Democratic voters, and the case in Maryland was brought by a group of Republicans.
“If the way the congressional lines were drawn were such an issue for the ACLU, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, and League of Women Voters, why did they wait for six years to file a lawsuit challenging the maps,” Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said in a statement.
In my opinion, if the Supreme Court rules that this round of Ohio redistricting is unconstitutional, it should remain consistent and rule in favor for Republican voters who have also had been affected by redrawn maps in states such as Illinois and Maryland. Only a solution that works for both parties is likely to stick.