Commentary

Fed up with gerrymandering, Ohioans are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore

December 7, 2021 12:20 am

The Republican majority members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission. Top row from left, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Bottom row from left Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, House Speaker Bob Cupp, and Senate President Matt Huffman. Official photos.

It’s time to channel Howard Beale. The iconic TV newsman in the 1976 movie “Network” crystallized the anger and powerlessness sweeping many Ohio voters today after state Republicans made a mockery of the redistricting reforms we overwhelming passed in two statewide referendums. A frustrated, angry, collective yawp is building in the Buckeye State over the crooked deal Ohio Republicans concocted for themselves in new district maps guaranteed to keep them in power in perpetuity.

“Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” Beale’s immortal refrain should be our rallying cry as Ohio voters. “I want you to get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell…” Righteous anger over Republican redistricting is warranted, my fellow Ohioans. We were treated as insignificant chumps by those who control all the political levers in the state. 

But Beale’s roar should also be our call to action to reclaim our one-person, one-vote power that extreme gerrymandering took away for a decade and will continue to steal under even more devious partisan mapmaking. In 2021, Republicans engineered legislative and congressional district maps that again dilute the influence of voters cracked into districts designed to easily elect Republicans. They again packed Democratic voters into as few districts as possible to make their political impact negligible. 

In closely divided Ohio, where the Mar-a-Lago seditionist won 53% of the vote in 2020, Republicans leaders again rigged district lines to give themselves nearly 90% of congressional seats and bigger super-majorities in the legislature. One party seized overriding authority in a state with an evenly split political makeup by again drawing contorted gerrymandered districts constructed to guarantee election outcomes.

If you live in one of the more egregiously doctored districts in Ohio, you have no ability to change who represents you. The statistical fix is in. No amount of organizing or door-ringing will alter preordained results. In 10 years under Republican gerrymandering, no congressional district flipped because the partisan district maps made an upset next to impossible. And now, even after voters revolted against democracy denied, against unfair, unrepresentative districts and changed the state constitution to end gerrymandering, Ohio Republicans gave us more of the same. 

Allow your fury to boil over at the arrogance and audacity of Ohio’s governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and legislative leaders who endorsed legislative and congressional maps that were even more lopsided and indefensible than the GOP con that undermined voters over the past decade. We’ve been screwed again.

Law-and-order bleating Republicans openly flouted the Ohio Constitution which prohibits partisan maps that unduly favor one party. Our controlling overlords simply interpreted the voter-approved constitutional amendments on redistricting to mean whatever served their party’s interest with distorted district lines that defied fairness. And now they’re the ones throwing a hissy fit about being held to account for outrageously stacking the deck to win elections. 

They’re the ones objecting to anti-gerrymandering lawsuits (not on the merits) but on procedural grounds. They’re the ones launching a full court press to speed up all legal challenges to their unlawful maps so Republicans can test out another unconstitutional system in the midterms. Gov. Mike DeWine is going for a hands-off defense on insulting voters with gerrymandered maps that break the law. 

He and the other worthless statewide Republican officials on the Ohio Redistricting Commission — who could have satisfied voter expectations and heeded mandated constitutional reforms — did nothing to stop blatantly unconstitutional legislative and congressional maps from being approved. Doesn’t matter that DeWine and Co. bemoaned the results and process. They signed off on the unacceptable as unprincipled partisans who chose party over fair districts.

Our Republican governor, secretary of state and state auditor joined the state senate president and house speaker to keep “the terrible tradition of extreme partisan gerrymandering in our state” by supporting district maps that serve politicians, not voters. They never intended to restore a level electoral playing that accurately reflects the people of Ohio. And this week, they are mounting legal defenses before the Ohio Supreme Court to justify the unjustifiable — giving themselves an unconstitutional partisan advantage in redistricting.

We, the thousands of marginalized Ohio voters deprived of a “meaningful ballot” in district elections mapped out in advance, now face at least another four years of powerlessness. That’s the only way Republicans can maintain their dominance in a politically divided state. They’d rather win by design in foolproof districts drawn to lock in GOP candidates with lopsided ratios of GOP voters than win by persuasion in a truly competitive campaign of ideas and solutions that earn support and win elections fair and square.  

They’re okay with democracy laying dormant indefinitely if rigging the system wins them endless power. But as long as you have a voice in this great state, use it. Be mad as hell that leading Ohio Republicans sold you out. Then channel your furor into a fight for your constitutional rights. Don’t take this sitting down. Get up right now. Get out of your chairs. We deserve so much better.  

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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.

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