In Montgomery County, Once Again, Gerrymandering Triumphs Over Democracy

In Montgomery County, once again gerrymandering trumps democracy. In this election, Democratic candidates for the county’s five Ohio House seats cumulatively beat their Republican opponents by over 1500 votes. But, regardless that the Democrats got more votes, Democrats didn’t even come close to winning a majority of county House seats. Democrats won two of the five contests. And Republicans easily won the other three.

Thanks to the reapportionment of 2001, all five Ohio House Districts in Montgomery County are “safe” seats — Democrats always win the 39th and 40th House Districts by large margins, while Republicans always win the 36th, 37th, and 38th Districts by large margins.

The fact that all five Ohio House Districts in Montgomery County are “safe,” is an insult to our democracy. Compounding this insult to democracy is the fact that local political parties use gerrymandered districts to leverage their own power. Local political leaders shamelessly suppress primary competition in these “safe” districts, in order to reward party regulars who have “paid their dues.” This practice of local Republicans and Democrats to deliberately suppress primary competition, I believe, should infuriate any voter who is paying attention. (I wrote the following articles last year about the local primary races. See: The Montgomery Democrats Decide to Suppress Democracy — Just Like the Republicans And also see:  How Gerrymandering Defeated An Outstanding Candidate And Sent a Weak Candidate To Columbus.)

Here is this year’s results for Montgomery County’s Five Ohio House Districts:

  • 36th Charles Morton (D) 21488 40% Seth A. Morgan (R) 31944 60%
  • 37th Andi Eveslage (D) 17955 35% Peggy Lehner (R) 33526 65%
  • 38th Susan W. Lienesch (D) 21417 39% Terry Blair (R) 33340 61%
  • 39th Clayton Luckie (D) 27029 81% Joshua S. Smith (R) 6523 19%
  • 40th Roland Winburn (D) 31570 72% Ann E. Siefker (R) 12494 28%

119,459 (D) 50.3%
117,827 (R) 49.7%

In 2005 Ohio voters had a chance to vote for “Issue 4” and to reform Ohio’s gerrymandering procedures. A group called “Reform Ohio Now” poured a lot of money into advertising, promoting this issue. But anti-reform groups, including the Republican Party, also spent a ton of money in advertising, degrading the issue.  When the votes were counted, amazingly, all 88 of Ohio’s counties voted against the issue, many by huge margins.

One part of Issue 4 that was hotly opposed was the provision that reapportionment would happen immediately, in time for the 2008 election. Had Issue 4 passed, no doubt, in this 2008 election, Montgomery County would have sent more Democrats than Republicans to the State House.

In 2006, after the defeat of Issue 4, Republicans in the State Assembly proposed their own legislation to change the reapportioning procedure. Only one Democrat in the State Assembly — Dixie Allen of Dayton — eventually supported the Republican proposal. All other State Assembly Democrats opposed the idea.

According to a May, 2006 article in The Columbus Dispatch, Republicans Kevin DeWine and John Husted were attempting to advance a good proposal, but were shot down by Democrats. The newspaper said, “Groups such as Ohio Citizen Action and the League of Women Voters of Ohio have given high marks to the Republican-crafted measure, though they wanted to fix some details. Top officials with Reform Ohio Now, a Democratic-leaning coalition that unsuccessfully pushed for redistricting reform last year, also favored it.”

The paper said, “It (The Republican Plan) called for the creation of a seven-member, bipartisan panel to draw state and federal lines. Currently, the legislature draws the congressional maps, and the State Apportionment Board, consisting of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and two lawmakers, draws state legislative lines.”

Under current law, the five member State Apportionment Board has one Republican and one Democrat from the State Assembly. So the statewide election in 2010 of the governor, auditor, and secretary of state, will determine which party has the upper hand in the reapportionment that will follow the 2010 census.

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2 Responses to In Montgomery County, Once Again, Gerrymandering Triumphs Over Democracy

  1. Ted says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the premise to eliminate gerrymandering. Districts should be drawn much as townships were originally drawn when Ohio became a State. Make the districts permanent. Then you could live in a district with whichever dominant party you desire. This joke of re-drawing lines every ten years has to end. Just wait until 2010’s State elections when the only thing that will be important is who controls the reapportionment board.

  2. Mike Bock says:

    Ted, Ohio has 99 Ohio House Districts and 33 Ohio Senate Districts. Each of these districts, according to the Supreme Court, should have the same number of voters — or as close to same as possible. Ohio has 18 US Congressional Districts. These districts also each must have the same number of voters. And after the next census, because of declining population, it may well be that Ohio will lose one US District. If Ohio loses one US congressman, the state will need to be divided into 17 districts. Every ten years, some adjustment in both Ohio Assembly Districts and US Congressional Districts must be made — to account for population shifts. Certainly the Districts should be more permanent than now, each should be competitive as possible and each should be based on some kind of logical geography, but it is not realistic to think that some adjustments every decade should be made. How to make those adjustments in a fair way is the question.

    You’re right, the big issue in 2010 state races of governor, auditor, and secretary of state is which party should be given control of the State Apportionment Board

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