Opinion: Gerrymandering leads to a broken system

Ray Paoletta is a junior political science major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at rpaolet1@kent.edu.

Ray Paoletta is a junior political science major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Ray Paoletta

The lack of bi-partisanship at all levels of government remains the number one complaint that citizens have with government. People look at elected officials and see what appears to be one party moving further to the right and one party moving farther to the left with no party looking to find the middle ground. Citizens need to look no further than Ohio to find a reason for the gridlock of current politics. State and Federal districts have been drawn to aid the majority party and hurt the minority party.  

Gerrymandering is a term used to describe the act of drawing district lines to aid one party over another. The current example of Ohio shows districts in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, and Ohio’s Congressional districts favoring Republicans over Democrats. Districts were drawn in 2010 so that Republicans candidates would find themselves in districts that included cities and counties that leaned Republican, and on the other hand, many Democrats found their districts split up and condensed into fewer districts. For example, prior to the 2010 redistricting, Dennis Kucinich represented Ohio’s tenth congressional district, which included Cleveland. Marcy Kaptur represented Ohio’s ninth Congressional district, which included Toledo. After redistricting, these two Congressional districts were combined into one. The result was one less democratic district, but one far left democratic stronghold.

The same principle was used to ensure more Republicans were elected to the Ohio General Assembly and to Congressional seats. Many counties and cities were split up between different districts to ensure that the new district would give the Republican candidate the best possible opportunity to win. An example would be Ohio’s 16th district. It was redrawn and led to former Congresswoman Betty Sutton of Ohio’s 13th district running in a Republican leaning district against the Republican incumbent of the 16th district.

The most significant problem with the current system is that it directly leads to partisanship. Most of the redrawn districts are either heavily Democratic or heavily Republican.  In order for any candidate to win his or her district, they need to win the votes of their district, and this means the more Conservative a candidate has the best chance to win in a Republican heavy district and the more Liberal candidate has the best chance to win a Democrat heavy district. The result? The Democrats elected become the most liberal candidate and the Republican candidates become the most conservative candidates. It is no wonder why politicians show no rush to make their way to the center and find middle ground.

Ohio can be shown as an example of the broken system. Gerrymandering has taken place in many states and has favored both parties at the expense of not only the other party but also ultimately the American people. Luckily, there are officials in Ohio from both parties who realize that this is a problem. Republican state senators Frank LaRose and Keith Faber, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and Democratic state senators Tom Sawyer and Nina Turner all support finding a bipartisan solution to make Ohio the competitive swing state that it really is. It is time for the Ohio state government and state governments across the country to work across aisles to put a permanent end to gerrymandering and make government work again.