Ohio is a swing state. It voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016. It sends one Democrat and one Republican to the US Senate. It has a pattern of electing Democratic and Republican governors—often in closely contested races. And, yet, Ohio’s congressional delegation currently includes 12 Republicans and just four Democrats.
Ohio saw one of the most radical gerrymandering of congressional districts in the country back in 2011. Republicans gained control of Ohio’s governorship and the Legislature in the 2010 “Republican wave” election and, like their political allies in a number of other states, they determined to lock in their gains by redrawing district maps to eliminate two-party competition. In Ohio, they created a classic “rigged system” in which a handful of Democrats would win overwhelmingly Democratic districts while many more Republicans would win districts that were drawn to maintain their partisan advantage—no matter what national or state political trends were in play.
Suddenly, a competitive state became uncompetitive. And unrepresentative. As Ohio’s Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition (which includes the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Common Cause Ohio, and dozens of other groups) has noted: “Although the total number of votes cast for each major party is consistently close in this battleground state, the party that drew the maps won 75% of the seats (12 of 16) even though they only got roughly 50-60% of the votes.”
That’s not an uncommon circumstance in the United States. But even in a nation that has become so absurdly and extremely gerrymandered that the Supreme Court is now considering an intervention to address the issue, Ohio stood out as one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation.
In recent Ohio congressional elections, the party favored by the district lines won 100 percent of the time. As state Representative Kathleen Clyde, who on Tuesday won the Democratic nomination for Ohio secretary of state, explains it: “These rigged and partisan districts made a mockery of our elections and they turn people off from voting.”
But that’s about to end.
On Tuesday, Ohio voters approved a radical rewrite of the rules, which was promoted by the League of Women Voters and other good-government groups, and forced onto the ballot via pressure on legislators to come up with a plan to end gerrymandering.