How did Ohio politics get so extreme? Gerrymandering.

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5 mins read
Map of Ohio Congressional Districts
Department of the Interior [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The outrage about Ohio’s insane and dangerous bill forcing the reimplantation of ectopic pregnancies (not medically feasible) has gone international. As it should.

We’re used to this extreme nonsense in Ohio. We do our best to fight it. But it’s a useful case study of how extreme a party lurches under extreme gerrymandering. For that, you can blame both moderate and right-wing Ohio GOPers.

So how did things get so extreme? Note, in ‘18, across OH’s 99 districts, 50.3% of Ohioans voted for a Republican for the statehouse, 49.3% for a Dem Amid those wins, Dems flipped 6 red districts blue. (After not having flipped a single gerrymandered district all decade.)

These six flips were all in formerly GOP areas….gerrymandered by Republicans in 2011 to guarantee victories. Yet they went blue because the GOP has gotten so extreme here in Ohio. And as they are across the country, suburban woman are switching allegiances rapidly.

The switch was so dramatic, three Dem woman flipped those gerrymandered by double digits! So Ohio voters voted almost 50/50 for Rs and Ds. And the GOP lost seats that they used to win without even trying…

You’d think the logical result would be some type of moderation, right? But that’s where gerrymandering kicks in.

How did that 50/50 vote translate in actual seats? Not representatively. Republicans’ rigged map—thanks to LG Husted, AG Yost and others, the most extreme in Ohio history—converted that 50/50 swing-state split into a 61-38 majority.

And the logical move to the middle after losing formerly safe GOP seats in the suburbs? The opposite. With fewer moderate members, only the more extreme members remain. And they’re doubling down on right-wing nonsense to please interest groups and win their next primaries.

The new House majority is more extreme than ever. With all of Ohio’s many challenges—opioids, slumping economy, poverty, small town decline— the first bill they passed and the Gov signed was on….guns.

After the tragic shooting in Dayton, the statehouse is rejecting any efforts to deal with gun violence. Instead, they are currently pushing so-called “stand your ground” legislation through the General assembly.

It’s safe to say this is not what the grieving Dayton community meant when they chanted, spontaneously, that their leaders needed to “do something.”

Several months back, they passed the six-week abortion ban. And unlike Kasich, who vetoed similar legislation, new Governor DeWine signed it. (We all wonder if there’s anything extreme enough for DeWine to veto?)

Now they have followed the six-week ban up with legislation banning abortion outright. And amid that comes the dangerous ectopic pregnancy legislation getting so much deserved criticism.

A political system is failing when it creates incentives to do exactly the opposite of the popular will, again and again. Yet that is exactly what is happening in states like Ohio, saddled with extreme gerrymandering.

And it’s happening even after not only polling, but recent elections, make it clear that the population does not support the lurch to the extreme.

Bottom line: the systematic rigging of elections is leading to deeply undemocratic outcomes, and women, victims of gun violence and so many others are paying the price.

But there is good news. Light at the end of the tunnel. In Ohio, at least, the people are fighting back. We recently passed two Ohio Constitutional amendments to curb extreme gerrymandering (both passed w more than 70% of the vote).

And, in 2020, elections for OH Surpeme Court (Dems can win the majority), and key House and Senate pickup opportunities, give us a chance to ensure that those reforms are respected and that gerrymandering is ended once and for all.

So if you’re tired of right wing extremism misrepresenting and endangering the good people of Ohio, help us lock in fair districts in 2020. And this decade-long nightmare will end.

Originally posted on Twitter. Re-posted with permission.


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David Pepper serves as Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, after being elected in December 2014 and reelected to a second term in 2018. Born and raised in Cincinnati, David is a fifth-generation Cincinnatian. David was first elected to public office in 2001, when he served on the Cincinnati City Council, finishing first out of a field of 26 candidates, and was reelected to a second term in 2003, again leading the pack in votes. In 2006, David was elected to the three-member Hamilton County Commission. He served as the Commission President from 2009-2010. During David’s tenure at the County, Hamilton County won 19 National Association of County Awards for outstanding management practices, more than all other Ohio counties combined. David was nominated by Ohio Democrats to run in statewide elections twice. In 2010, David ran for the office of Ohio Auditor, and in 2014, for Attorney General. David earned his B.A. magna cum laude from Yale University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and later earned his J.D. from Yale Law School. In 1999, David clerked for the Honorable Nathaniel Jones of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. For a decade, David worked in the Cincinnati offices of major law firms Squire Sanders and Blank Rome, focusing his practice on commercial and business litigation, and appellate litigation. David has also taught election and voting rights law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. David is married to Alana (Swartz) Pepper. They have two sons, Jack, 5, and Charlie, 3. David is the author of two widely praised novels—“The People’s House,” an Ohio-based political thriller, and its sequel, “The Wingman.” His third book, “The Voter File,” will be published by Putnam in June 2020.

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