RELEASE: In Ohio, Partisan Gerrymandering Negatively Affects Legislative Accountability and Fair Representation

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Washington, D.C. — To account for changes in population, the principle of “one person, one vote” requires states to redraw their election districts every 10 years. In some states, legislators can manipulate district boundaries to benefit their own political party, engaging in extreme partisan gerrymandering. Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case in which a group of voters—represented by the Campaign Legal Center—are challenging maps drawn in Wisconsin. The case will determine whether these maps were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit one political party over another.

While Wisconsin is currently at the center of this fight, it is just one of several states where partisan gerrymandering is particularly acute. Extreme partisan gerrymandering weakens voters’ ability to affect election outcomes and exercise accountability over government, negatively affecting the responsiveness of legislators and crippling fair representation. Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing, Center for American Progress experts Liz Kennedy and Billy Corriher have prepared state-specific fact sheets on states with some of the most extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering and its consequences: WisconsinMichiganNorth CarolinaOhioRhode Island, and Virginia.

“Gerrymandering leads to less competitive elections, and this means legislators don’t have to worry about what voters think. Democracy is about voters being able to influence their elected officials, but gerrymandering makes it harder for voters to make their voice heard,” said Billy Corriher, deputy director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets.

A commission chosen by four elected Republican officials and one Democrat redrew Ohio’s election districts in 2011. In the following year, Democrats won the popular vote for the state House and Senate, but Republicans secured majorities in both chambers. The Legislature—insulated from accountability through gerrymandering—has been unresponsive to major public support for raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, raising taxes on the wealthy, and advancing civil rights for LGBT people. Nearly two-thirds of Ohio residents favor expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but, earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a bill to halt the governor’s expansion. More than 700,000 low-income people gained access to health care insurance through Ohio’s Medicaid expansion. The vast majority of Ohioans also support civil rights laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. Yet the Legislature has repeatedly refused to take up the issue. A 2015 poll found that 61 percent of Ohio voters supported raising taxes on the wealthy in order to lower them for others, but recent tax cuts have disproportionately benefited the wealthy. An even larger majority—75 percent—wants an increase in the minimum wage. This did not stop the gerrymandered Legislature from passing a bill to prohibit local increases in the minimum wage.

The bottom line is that extreme partisan gerrymandering discriminates against targeted voters by locking them out of achieving representational power. This prevents progress on solutions that majorities of voters support, such as a higher minimum wage and expanded Medicaid programs,” said Liz Kennedy, director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets. “In Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court has to stand up for the right to fair representation in our democracy and set limits on partisan gerrymandering to prevent these continuing abuses.”

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For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6258.

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