Commentary

Ohio Republicans throw temper tantrum as attempts to cheat with gerrymandering shot down

February 10, 2022 3:20 am

Photo: Courtesy of the Ohio Supreme Court

It takes a real dirtbag sensibility to claim the Ohio Supreme Court demanding districts in line with the Ohio Constitution voters overwhelmingly amended that actually represent Ohioans’ political preferences and still give your party a majority is somehow the real gerrymandering.

Nevertheless, that’s what we’re seeing from many Ohio Republican Statehouse politicians confronted with the possibility they may have to finally actually compete in competitive elections.

The childish temper tantrum being thrown by Ohio politicians upset they’ve been stopped from cheating their way into reelection with rigged districts is sadly completely unsurprising.

This is what happens when people who never face accountability are actually held accountable.

Just because the Ohio Supreme Court won’t let them get away with cheating, the politicians who keep trying to cheat don’t get to complain now about election calendar disruptions when they could’ve just acted constitutionally from the beginning.

First, we need to go over the history. Ohio Republicans have controlled redistricting since the 1990’s, and since the 1990’s they’ve stacked the deck in their favor, more egregiously with each passing decade. In 2015, more than 71% of voters amended the Ohio Constitution to snuff out gerrymandering of state House and Senate districts, and nearly 75% did so again for U.S. Congressional districts in 2018.

Instead, this fall, Ohio Republicans gave voters more supermajority gerrymandering of the Ohio House, more supermajority gerrymandering of the Ohio Senate, and absurdly disproportionate continued gerrymandering of Ohio’s U.S. Congressional districts.

Maps were proposed to the commission that actually represent the 54-46 Republican to Democratic political split of Ohioans, as averaged over 16 partisan statewide elections, directly mirroring the 1.9 million to 1.6 million Republican to Democratic registered voter split of Ohioans.

GOP leaders instead awarded themselves more supermajorities, with a House breakdown of 62 seats to 37 Dems, and 23 to 10 in the Senate, according to their own figures. Dave’s Redistricting App projected a 65-seat GOP supermajority in the House. Meanwhile, Republicans in the state legislature passed a congressional map along party lines that awarded themselves a 11-2 GOP-to-Democratic map with two potential toss-ups.

The Ohio Supreme Court declared these efforts unconstitutional gerrymanders and ordered them to be redrawn.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission returned to work this winter and produced a second map, based on their original gerrymandered map, and once again it passed along partisan lines, this time with Republicans giving themselves a 57 GOP to 42 Dem split in the Ohio House, and a 20 GOP to 13 Dem breakdown in the Senate.

In the House, 12 of the “Democratic leaning” seats in the GOP plan were tossups, with a Dem favor of only 50-51%. All of the GOP-leaning seats favored Republicans by more than 52%.

On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down this second attempt as well.

“The (Ohio Redistricting Commission’s) choice to avoid a more proportional plan for no explicable reason points unavoidably toward an intent to favor the Republican Party,” the 4-3 majority wrote in its ruling.

This is when the childish hysterics began.

Even though the deciding vote came from Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, GOP politicians whined of a “liberal” court, not standing up against gerrymandering, but somehow trying to enforce Democratic gerrymandering.

That might be a line that sells to unthinking rubes, but anybody paying attention knows that at no point did either Democrats or anti-gerrymandering advocates offer a map that would give Democrats a majority in either chamber of the General Assembly or U.S. Congressional districts.

In fact, all maps offered by Democrats and independent groups preserved the GOP’s majority, and the court itself cited the same 54/46 partisan split of Ohioans statewide election results bear out.

The infantile GOP response to the court can be summed up thusly: How dare you hold us accountable for trying to cheat. By not letting us cheat, you’re gerrymandering yourselves!

Fair, competitive maps are not gerrymandering. Acting in bad faith to produce imbalanced maps that maximize every advantage possible for your party and maximize every disadvantage possible for the opposition party, that’s gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering pushes politicians to extremes, denies voters their voice, opens the door to corruption, radicalizes political discourse, kills compromise, and disintegrates democracy. Gerrymandering poisons everything.

Politicians who would gerrymander themselves to victory in rigged districts are not acting in good faith. They’re afraid of competing on a level playing field in a general election. Why? I don’t know.

Maybe they’re more comfortable appealing to their rabid base than they are to the broad general electorate that actually comprises all Ohioans and all of their constituents.

Maybe they’re more comfortable knowing they can get away with doing whatever they want without ever facing any accountability because their primary voters will just keep returning them to positions of public trust no matter what corruption goes down on their watch.

Whatever the case, it doesn’t really matter because Chief Justice O’Connor has stood up for the American Republic despite them. And of course, now she’s facing calls for her impeachment because of it.

Vying to replace her, as she is prevented by age from running for reelection, is Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy who dissented in the rulings and would’ve allowed GOP politicians to cheat voters every four years ad infinitum.

Elections really do have consequences, and this whole spectacle in many ways is Ohio’s last stand for fair elections.

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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

OCJ Editor-in-Chief David DeWitt has more than 15 years experience covering Ohio government, politics and policy, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt.

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