Reforms Alone Won’t Get Us Fair Maps — We Need People Power

By Katy Shanahan, All On The Line Ohio State Director

Last weekend, a conservative election blog released what they consider to be a fair and legal new Congressional map for Ohio under the updated criteria that came as a result of the 2018 Congressional redistricting reform ballot measure and is now a part of the Ohio Constitution. To put it plainly, this proposed map is not fair and is, quite frankly, an insult to Ohioans and a mockery of the decades-long fight to get Ohio representative maps.

The map contains more county splits than are necessary, cracking apart neighboring communities with similar interests in Hamilton County who deserve to be preserved in their own districts to ensure adequate political representation. And despite the fact that Republican candidates won just 52% of the statewide congressional vote share in 2018, this map awards the GOP with a staggering 87% of the seats.

If there is a silver lining, it’s that the release of this map clarifies that Ohio’s reforms alone will not deliver fair maps; we must hold all of our elected officials accountable to the will of the people. And we will need a significant amount of public engagement in the redistricting process to make sure our leaders actually implement the fairness in the promise of the reform measures Ohioans so overwhelmingly supported.

Ohio’s redistricting reforms are important in that they will protect us against some of the most egregious forms of gerrymandering that we see in our current maps. For example, the infamous “Snake On the Lake” district that meanders along Lake Erie’s shorelines from Toledo to parts of Cleveland will not be permissible under the new criteria. And a lot of the unnecessary community splits we have under our current maps will be curbed under the new criteria. However, gerrymandering may persist, in part because the reform measures were a byproduct of partisan negotiations. To keep that from happening, we will need to harness the power of the people, especially those from historically marginalized communities, to demand that our map drawers do right by Ohioans!

This map makes clear that there will be a serious effort to undermine the desire of Ohio’s voters to bring real reform and fairness to our redistricting process and to our maps. It will take an incredible effort from all of us to keep the redistricting process open and transparent and to make sure that it is inclusive of all Ohioans. We must ensure that it yields good, fair maps that are not only representative of Ohio’s voters, but are also responsive to the will of Ohioans.

All On The Line is the grassroots movement to end gerrymandering and restore fairness to our elections and democracy ahead of 2021 redistricting. Formerly OFA.